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December 14 2007 ~ "culling and biosecurity measures did not stamp out the virus"

    The Guardian this morning reports on the fact that "the IAH scientists today leaked their own report, which was completed in September, amid frustration that it had not been published by Defra."
    The news release on the BBSRC site says
      ".... it is possible to establish with considerable molecular precision which viruses are descendants of which parent viruses. The data have been peer reviewed by a group of leading scientists at the request of Defra’s Chief Scientific Adviser and are due to published shortly. The independent expert peer review process has accepted the study’s conclusions that the second phase of the outbreak originated from the first phase and not from a separate release from the Pirbright site."
    In other words, the two outbreaks came from the same source, and it was a grave error on the part of DEFRA to claim that the first outbreak in August had been fully eradicated.
    As the Guardian spells out this morning, " the outbreak.. led to the culling of hundreds of healthy animals."

December 13 2007 ~ "I agree that Defra should not continue as regulator of laboratories handling of animal pathogens..." Hilary Benn

    The Callaghan Review , published today, is available as a pdf file here. It recommended a three-phased approach to implement a number of changes to strengthen this regulatory framework in the UK. The main change would be to move to a model where use of both animal and human pathogens is governed by a single regulatory framework, with Defra passing the responsibility for regulation of these pathogens to the HSE, as a single, independent body with the appropriate expertise and experience in the field. Hilary Benn's response to the House of Commons can be read here and a summary of DEFRA's responses to the main recommendations is here..
    One of the most interesting sentences in the report: "It is our view that VLA and AH, which are both Defra Agencies, do not have the necessary distance from Defra policy makers to count as arm’s length organisations."

December 13 2007 ~ Infected Pirbright soil ended up in Egham - Times

    One of the questions warmwell.com posed in September was
      "What did they do about the soil removed from the site given that it was deemed to have been a source of infection? Could it have ended up in a local farm to save time and trouble?"
    Today, The Times reveals that the Anderson review has now heard evidence from a number of people, including private veterinary surgeons that contractors used the soil as “a cash crop” rather than paying for its disposal in a landfill site. "The second wave of the foot-and-mouth outbreak in Surrey is likely to have been caused by contaminated soil from the Government's Pirbright scientific research laboratory... It is alleged that contractors working on the £121 million modernisation programme at the laboratory collected soil contaminated with live virus at the site and sold it as top soil. Some of this was spread on land next to a farm where animals were later identified with the disease. .."

December 13 2007 ~ " it shows they have not learnt all the lessons from 2001.."

    As one of our virologist correspondents asked on September 13th, after disease was found in Egham,
      "... is this new infection from activites in relation to the soil directly or indirectly? In loose soil the virus could be buried out of the sun and kept cool and moist in discontinuous discrete lumps. If this is found in retrospect to be so it shows they have not learnt all the lessons from 2001, when the infection was widespread in sheep, at least locally in Northumberland, before ever it surfaced in the Waugh's pig farm..." Read in full
    The Times points out that under the government's own guidelines, waste from any site dealing with live disease viruses requires a disposal licence from the Environment Agency. This "seems to have been overlooked".

December 12 2007 ~ "The Government keep their vaccination policy for all notifiable diseases under constant review"

    said Jonathan Shaw in answer to some questions by Bill Wiggin on Monday. More He said the government takes "full account of the latest scientific evidence" - but was not specific about where this latest scientific evidence was to be found. More credible was his reference to "the desirability of harmonising approaches to vaccination with other member states." He also said,
      "DEFRA has not made an assessment of the financial merits to the economy of producing foot and mouth disease (FMD) vaccine in the UK. However, having a readily available stock of FMD vaccine is of clear benefit in terms of ensuring timely access to vaccine in the event of an outbreak."
    ( It is something to have a Minister acknowledge that even "the financial merits to the economy" might be less important a consideration than a timely stock of vaccine. Perhaps Mr Shaw would even agree that paragraph 3.32 of the latest contingency plan, referring to a Vaccination Operations Team as a "limited national resource", is rather odd in a document about emergency control.)

December 12 2007 ~"...it has been noted that veterinarians have very little power to influence the decision-making process in comparison with the agri-trade lobby."

    So wrote the veterinary consultant John Ryan in his paper FMD, Risk and Europe a few years ago, and certainly it seems to many that "key" or "core" stakeholders tend to be lobbying for the agri-trade rather than for ordinary farmers - particularly when it comes to such things as vaccination issues. The government's constant claims -( here was Lord Rooker last Thursday, for example,) that
      "Not a single major decision has been taken in this situation without consulting a massive range in the chain of industry stakeholders..."
    do not go on to claim that "not a single major decision" has been taken without consulting the best veterinary expertise. Even Pirbright's experts, who may well offer sound advice are not partners in decision-making and their advice can be brushed aside. As for the virologists, the genuine experts in vaccines and those who actually know something about state of the art rapid diagnosis, it would be interesting to know if and when they have been consulted and - if so - what were the outcomes of such important consultations.

December 12 2007 ~ The present contingency plan mentions diagnosis only 4 times - each time with reference to laboratory tests.

    The word "vaccines" is not mentioned at all - and although "vaccination" appears 19 times, 5 of those appear in a somewhat incomprehensible paragraph (3.32) calling the vaccination team a "limited national resource". Other references give no detail beyond telling us that the Secretary of State will make the decision "based upon epidemiological and scientific advice provided by Defra’s Chief Veterinary Officer and Chief Scientific Advisor " and for six long years, Sir David King has set his face rigidly against both FMD vaccination and rapid diagnosis. (Blog) As for his successor, Magnus Linklater writes in today's Times, "... the Professor needs to be as bold and independent as his master is cautious. He should not be afraid to challenge head on the safe and the expedient. He should distrust the advice of those who draw their salaries from well-funded research projects, and be prepared to question received wisdom. .."

December 10/11 2007 ~ "The plan draws on lessons learned from disease outbreaks earlier this year .."

    Without waiting for any response from the Anderson Review, Defra laid its yearly Contingency Plan (147 pages) before Parliament again today. In 2005 the SAC Epidemic Diseases sub-group, in their review of that year's Foot and Mouth Disease contingency plan, made 20 recommendations. DEFRA responded to them. Warmwell commented upon them. That was 2 years ago and we'd welcome comments about whether readers think things have changed for the better since that work was done. The Summer of 2007 , as we commented in October, showed that many of the failings of six years ago were simply repeated. Poor funding led to an accident - but lack of vaccination turned it into a disaster. Because on-site rRT-PCR has been shunned in the UK, animals were subjected to repeated blood tests instead of rapid non-invasive swabs and quick results on site. Over two thousand were killed - most of which were healthy.
    Merely tinkering with animal health policies - changing the odd thing here and there in the Contingency Plan - is not going to get farming out of its deep crisis. We read that the Farmers Crisis Network helplines are jammed not because of disease itself but because of the policies applied to them that seem only to make matters worse - TB, foot and mouth disease, avian flu - slaughter and inflexible standstills seem the only things DEFRA knows. Other support agencies are reporting similar increases. (At least Bluetongue can be treated only by vaccination and we look forward to the outcome of the EU meeting on January 16th)

December 10/11 2007 ~"It may be of interest that an area in Normandy Surrey near Pirbright has been taped off."

    An emailer writes, " This is the site of the original outbreaks. Maybe something to do with the heavy rain we have been having? Oh by the way, very shortly after the last 'leakage' from Pirbright (see below) they started bleeding sheep in the neighbourhood. It is a wonder that some of them have any blood left.
    All a bit strange because we were told that the virus hadn't leaked into the environment. I have a feeling that we are not being told everything or perhaps it's because the authorities are not really sure what is going on?"

December 7 2007 ~ "If all the UK farms that were slaughtered out in 2001 had been tested in a pooled sample from 10 animals it would have been £100,000 for test kits at most..."

    Roger Breeze writes, " ...It is not necessary to differentiate between FMD serotypes on the farm since this is not a time-sensitive decision. The response in USA, EU and UK to all FMD serotypes is the same until a vaccine is deployed based on the serotype and subtype. The exact virus type can be determined by sequencing the entire virus genome within 24 hours of first identification by on-farm PCR.
    By the way, USDA (and probably Pirbright) make their FMD PCR tests in house in facilities that are not FDA or USDA licensed for diagnostics production and they do not follow good manufacturing practices. USDA encourages the state labs to do the same thing and not purchase quality test kits ..." Read in full

December 5 2007 ~ Lack of information about FMD vaccines - in the US

    A recent paper predicts a "devastating economic impact" should foot-and-mouth disease come to Kansas - but no mention at all is made of the effective vaccines that are available. Instead, "researchers predicted that 1.7 million head of livestock would have to be destroyed and that an outbreak would last nearly three months." Our attention was drawn to one article about the Kansas paper that even told its readers,
      "And there’s no vaccine, no way to stop such an attack."
    One wonders if the foot-and-mouth disease summit to be held on Wednesday, Dec. 12 in Montana (which representatives of at least ten states will be attending) will make any mention of the technology that can effectively and rapidly both diagnose and combat the disease.

December 4 2007 ~ " I am astounded and baffled as to why the government is allowed to continue to practise obsolete veterinary medicine that is clearly contrary to the welfare of animals"

    One does rather wonder how many of the people whose stock response to any mention of the rapid diagnostic tests that perform RT-PCR in the field is "Ah, but they are not validated" actually realise that they do not have to be validated in order to be used. A country can use any means it wishes to control foot and mouth disease whether or not OIE approves. Can anyone challenge this ? And it not, why on earth is the resistance to using such technology still allowed to carry such weight?
    What do have to be "validated" are the tests used to resume international trade in animals and animal products. As Roger Breeze wrote in September, " As a member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons of almost 40 years, I am astounded and baffled as to why the government is allowed to continue to practise obsolete veterinary medicine that is clearly contrary to the welfare of animals that the government has decided shall be solely in its care. There can be no other branch of veterinary medicine where modern science is totally ignored yet veterinary surgeons retain their licences to practise. ..."

December 4 2007 ~ " The new Rapid Test evaluated in this study achieves relatively high diagnostic sensitivity and provides results within about 30 minutes.."

    Warmwell readers may well share a certain frustration at seeing the rapid diagnostic test for chlamydia so praised as a breakthrough (See yesterday's www.staffnurse.com) when similar technology to detect animal pathogens on-site and within the hour are consistently ignored with the mantra "not validated". DEFRA seems entirely uninterested by the fact that these "non validated" machines, far more lightweight and easy to operate than the machines assessed by the Pirbright team (pdf), are being successfully used in former Soviet countries such as Uzbechistan and Azerbyjan. The Chlamydia Rapid Test developed in Cambridge is so welcome because results are available within 30 minutes, which would allow all patients testing positive to be offered treatment while still at the clinic. But this is precisely what the rapid RT-PCR diagnostic machine (the size of a toaster) in the former Soviet Bloc countries mentioned above is already doing with both human patients, (tested, for example, for papillovirus in a mobile clinic), and the screening of animals in the field for pathogens. How extraordinary that the EU, which considers itself so sophisticated, should be so far lagging behind in life-saving technology, leaving people at risk from zoonoses and farmers a prey to the viruses and bacteria - the policies against which, as well as the pathogens themselves - threaten their livestock and their livelihoods.

December 4 2007 ~ EU lifts foot-and-mouth disease restrictions on Cyprus pork - leaving questions about the Cyprus "outbreak" unanswered

    Cyprus is now allowed to resume exports of unprocessed pork - and the statement in the Cyprus Financial Mirror that this is because pigs are " considered to be less susceptible to foot-and-mouth disease" is a very odd statement. The ProMed Moderator says that the lifting of the export ban from nearly the whole island, "means -- de facto -- that the EU recognizes Cyprus as a territory free of circulating FMD virus." In other words, as we have noted below, the positive serological reactions in sheep were not necessarily indicative of disease. The moderator continues:
      " in view of the unconvincing clinical description, absence of circulating virus, and negative serological reactions in susceptible cattle and pigs in the vicinity of the "affected" flocks, combined with the absence of any disease signs in these susceptible species.... past vaccinations could have been the cause of positive sheep serology. To sum-up and clear this unusual event, a follow-up or final report to the OIE deserves to be submitted." (Read full posting)
    The situation in Cyprus led to much unnecessary killing, unhappiness and anxiety. It all emphasises how important it is to have the most up-to-date testing technology in the hands of knowledgeable and responsible people in all Member States when the consequences of suspected disease are so draconian.

November 27 2007 ~ "Gordon Brown likes to cite his handling of the bluetongue and foot-and-mouth disease outbreaks as evidence of his competence."

    So says the Financial Times. There are those who would cite the handling of the foot and mouth and bluetongue crises as evidence of the UK's medieval approach to animal disease control. The inability of the UK and DEFRA to learn either from the mistakes of the past nor from the most up-to-date- disease control technologies is costing the country dear. How could it have been possible not to use vaccination in August - that vaccines produced at the Merial Pirbright laboratory are for export purposes only? How is it possible that Bluetongue vaccine still has not actually been ordered - meaning the vaccine companies are stillsitting on their hands? How is it that anxious poutry owners who want to protect their birds from the next outbreak of H5N1 are still being told that they may not do so?

23 Nov 2007 ~ Such a virus escape, although bizarre, was not dangerous to the outlying countryside

    when, as the Times says,
      "urgent maintenance work on faulty effluent pipes and manhole covers at Pirbright had been completed and a new facility was also in place to heat treat waste from virus production. The ground above the drains is also now a controlled area and anyone entering it has to follow strict cleansing and disinfecting regimes. Effluent from the plant also now enters a chemical treatment facility that deactivates any virus, and this equipment is monitored and tested daily."
    It appears that a faulty valve on a pipe used to separate live virus from waste product allowed virus to leak into the contained drainage system. However, Merial became aware of this at once and took immediate action. There was no question of any virus getting out of the contained drainage system and the valve was replaced without delay. It is inevitable though that such an occurrence was going to hit the headlines, and the apparent attempt by DEFRA to delay reporting the incident, to make a statement instead of answering Opposition questions in person at the time they were asked, has the effect of making it seem more sinister. Bluetongue vaccine production is being held up once more. We can only hope the revoking of the SAPO licence is a very temporary withdrawal.

22 Nov 2007 ~ FMD virus escape? SAPO Licence suspended yet again

    On the possible leak at the Merial site on Monday, Pirbright, Hilary Benn's statement is on the DEFRA site, "....The inspection team judge that while it was possible that live FMD virus had entered the contained drainage system, from their discussions and the evidence gathered they are assured that live virus has not been released to the environment. The extensive layers of biosecurity that we require under the SAPO licence effectively contained the virus in the closed, re-lined drainage system before deactivation in the chemical treatment facility."
    The Times reports,"...on Monday Merial discovered a shortfall in the quantity of virus recovered from production batches last week. A faulty valve on a pipe used to separate live virus from waste product was identified as the cause of the leak. "
    One wonders how Steve Kendrew is feeling today. It will be remembered that he was hired as a project manager to oversee construction projects at IAH's sites at Pirbright and at Compton, and raised concerns with managers at IAH, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), DEFRA and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). He continued his warnings via e-mails throughout 2006. Many were ignored - and it seems his career at the IAH ended somewhat abruptly. As he said at the time: " “This has cost me dearly. My career is blighted . . . but staying silent would have been a crime by omission.” (See Sunday Times Sep 30 07)
    The general feeling - as in this Guardian report - is that no virus can have actually leaked out into the environment around Pirbright.

16 November 2007 ~ " What foot and mouth zones really mean?"

    The Farmers Weekly's Stephen Carr explains "what they are really about" in an article which can hardly be termed tongue in cheek since the fury of it blazes from the page. It reflects the growing realisation that what we are witnessing in the realm of so-called animal health has nothing at all to do with the health of animals.
    (If it had, the relevant authorities would have embraced vaccination and state of the art diagnostics for Foot and Mouth and for Avian Influenza instead of the continuing nonsense about vaccination masking disease. The bluetongue tendering for vaccine comes because all Member States affected agree that it is our only weapon - but DEFRA's present plan - astonishingly - ignores the EU commitment to pay for all vaccines and half the cost of implementation for the first year. DEFRA is asking farmers to pay and is suggesting voluntary vaccination - an option that has little hope of success. In place of the increasingly closed "Core" stakeholder meetings there would be genuine consultation with those who, together with their unfortunate animals, have up until now been forced to pay the price of these outdated and compassionless policies. )

13 November 2007 ~ "Euro Coop supports vaccination as an alternative to mass slaughtering on prevention grounds of healthy livestock, which is intolerable..

    .. both from a societal and an animal welfare perspective. Vaccination is also beneficial insofar as it prevents suffering and can help avoid the use of chemicals..."
    It is very cheering indeed to see such an unambiguous statement. Euro Coop is the European community of consumer cooperatives.
    Its Secretariat is based in Brussels. Its members are the national organisations of consumer cooperatives in 16 european countries. Created in 1957, Euro Coop today represents over 3,200 local and regional cooperatives, the members of which amount to more than 22 million consumers across Europe. Here is its full position paper on vaccination.

Monday 12 November 2007 ~ Anderson FMD Review: 2007

    Readers may agree with us that it is important to put in writing, however brief, one's views about
    • whether relevant points from the Lessons to be Learned Report and Royal Society Inquiry on the 2001 outbreak were implemented;
    • whether new lessons might be drawn from the handling of the 2007 outbreak
    Iain Anderson will make recommendations "by the end of 2007 to the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on the future handling of foot and mouth disease outbreaks". Our letters and emailed comments to the Anderson Review of 2007 FMD(send them here) must reach the Cabinet Office by 16th November, Friday this week. See today's Blog

Saturday 10 November 2007 ~ The 150 km "high risk" area demonstrates "regionalisation"

    How ironic it is to see regionalisation used at this point in November when the UK could have asked that the vaccination regulations be allowed to apply to Surrey alone This could have been done right from the start. Consequently very much smaller zone be put in place while the rest of the UK carried on as normal. But, without either vaccination nor on-site rapid diagnosis (requiring non-invasive swabs) the outbreak was allowed to drag on until September 30th and hundreds of animals have been bled over and over again in a relentless attempt to show freedom from disease.
    Although farms within this new zone, (chosen by the UK itself rather than Brussels, it seems), are miles away from any likelihood of FMD infection, they are to be treated as a region in which no movements may take place. See what Daniel Hannan, MEP for the South East, had to say on the subject, while Peter Kendall was even more outspoken. The amendment to Commission Decision 2007/554/EC unanimously agreed by SCoFCAH on Tuesday now does allow the rest of Great Britain apart from the FMD "region" to revert to normality in the matter of meat, milk and their products - but this 150 kilomentre zone is to pay the price. The decision will not be formally adopted until 16 November at the earliest. It could possibly be 19 November. As for live exports, the three month rule must still be seen to apply. (We would love to hear from anyone who does not find this Pdf file almost wholly incomprehensible. Link mended. Apologies. It is a badly scanned EU document.)

Friday November 9 2007 ~ Latest FMD report - and farewell to D. Reynolds

    For the first time on the 6th November the follow-up report 13 for FMD received by the OIE from Dr Debby Reynolds reported that the "source of infection " was "Laboratory escape". Today's report (no 14) finds us back to the older refrain: "source of infection - Unknown or inconclusive".
    What is unlikely to dither is Dr Reynolds decision to take early retirement.
    You may - if you so choose - read on this DEFRA page entitled "Chief vet leaves with plaudits after four years service" how Dr Reynolds seems convinced that this Summer she "built a disease control strategy which is the best in the world"

Friday November 9 2007 ~ The 1968 Northumberland Report advised vaccination and testing to check for disease before slaughter

    An email just received reminds us that it is not just the recommendations of the reports following the 2001 disaster that have been largely ignored. Four decades ago the Northumberland Report quoted the Gowers Committee whose members showed that they understood the "....mental anguish it may cause to those who suffer its consequences, and the shattering disaster, not computable in terms of money, that it may bring to a farmer who has to see the work of a lifetime destroyed in a day.”
    What is even more significant is - from Part Two - paragraph 36 "...Diagnostic techniques are now available which can show the presence of virus before clinical signs appear and we therefore recommended that material (including samples taken by probing) from all suspected in contact animals that have been traced should be tested in the laboratory for the presence of virus." Send comments to the Anderson Review of 2007 FMD

Friday November 9 2007 ~ "The focus of our inquiry was to find a better way of handling this dreadful disease in future, in the firm belief that what happened in 2001 was unacceptable..."

    So said Gavin McCrone, Vice-Chairman, Royal Society of Edinburgh Inquiry into Foot and Mouth Disease, on the 18 August 2002 It is a grim exercise to look again at the recommendations of all the Inquiries as one prepares a submission to the latest Anderson Review. How many of the points, so carefully arrived at by these earnest reports, were put into practice in 2007? Here is a summary of the recommendations. Accountability matters. Send comments to the Anderson Review of 2007 FMD

November 9th ~ At least in 2001 no one pretended that the panicky mass cull was allowed by law.

    In 2007, on a minimum of 33 locations, all animals were summarily killed. It is hoped that readers will be able to take the time to remind Iain Anderson that his first recommendation "to revise powers under the Animal Health Act to ensure laws for slaughter were clarified" allowed - in 2007 - the killing of hundreds of healthy animals to be legally carried out. Only a handful of animals on the 8 premises designated IPs were actually infected. Was that what the Anderson Inquiry intended?
    The decision not to vaccinate ignored his second recommendation: "Vaccination must form part of future control of a disease outbreak". If a "senatorial" group, recommended by his Inquiry, was set up then one has to ask what were the qualifications for inclusion and how far DEFRA listened to such a group. There is a lack of expert input; the failure to provide adequate research funding could be said to have led to the disaster itself. Their recommendations of the reports seem to have been so forgotten that one wonders what all the time and expense - and expertise - in producing them was for. Send comments to the Anderson Review of 2007 FMD

November 9th ~ Funding to provide for a diagnostic on-farm test, recommended by the Royal Society, was not forthcoming.

    Only now are we in sight (but it is still some way off) of a test that Pirbright helped develop It was not able to be used during that August/September crisis and is not ready now. Yet cheap, portable on-site diagnostic kits, for which training takes precisely five minutes (I have been so trained) are now routinely used in the former Soviet Bloc countries to test for animal pathogens including FMD. And, the most heartbreaking irony of all is that a prototype machine was offered to the UK in 2001. The action of Sir David King and others in rejecting it is a decision long overdue for proper appraisal.

Thursday November 8 2007 ~ Report FMD SCOFCAH


    Page 5 shows the chronology of the infected IPs, page 6 shows holding where animals were killed dated October 15th, page 8 is entitled "additional culling" but gives no details of numbers or species.
    Read in full (Defra pdf file)
    Reports of the "enhanced surveillance" can give no real idea of the amount of bleeding that has been done on the hundreds of animals in the area. One NFU spokesman said that 'nearly every animal in the South East had been nearly bled to death with so many tests being done to show we are clear of FMD - but that hadn't been enought to satisfy the EU'.
    It has been described by a local vet as "out of all proportion to the risk."

Wednesday November 7 2007 ~" the EU appears to be extending the agony for hundreds of farmers for no worthwhile benefit in terms of controlling the disease."

    Peter Kendall, quoted in www.farminguk.com speaks for many when he expresses the bafflement and anger felt by farmers finding themselves caught under yet more new restrictions - "on hundreds of farms miles away from the centre of the outbreak". He calls the new controls "perverse and unreasonable" .
      "How can farmers be expected to understand a situation in which they can move animals across a boundary line this week, but will be banned from doing so next week, when there is not a scrap of evidence to suggest that the disease is still around? Up to now, we have been prepared to accept the decisions of the veterinary authorities here and in Brussels as a necessary price to be paid for stamping out foot and mouth disease..."
    It is perhaps to be regretted that the NFU in August did not direct its powerful voice in favour of regionalisation and vaccination. It is evident to most people now that vaccination works well and it is only the continuing unfair regulations that make the humane control policy such a poor relation. If it is not enough that "extensive surveillance" shows that the virus has gone, one wonders what the EU requires.
    UPDATE For many, confusion still reigns. DEFRA announced yesterday that the new FMD restricted Zone would now include the old Surveillance Zone, that movement restrictions would remain in place and the BBC reported .
    The SCOFCAH decision, likely to take effect from 14 November, has split the UK into three FMD areas. The "high risk" area immediately around the IPs are allowed no meat exports. From the so-called "moderate risk" zone, covering a 150km area around it, meat and meat products can be exported if they have the paperwork to prove a 21 day standstill and residency period (7 day standstill in the case of pigs) The new rule, stipulates that animals cannot be moved out of the "moderate risk" zone.
    No live export is allowed from anywhere at present.

Tuesday November 6 2007 ~ New publication might speed up validation of individual-based NSP tests?

    There has never been a case of a vaccinated animal spreading FMD - but the concern about vaccinated "carriers" persists and seems to many to be able to justify continuing trade restrictions against animals vaccinated against foot and mouth. A new publication "Modelling studies to estimate the prevalence of foot-and-mouth disease carriers after reactive vaccination" Proc Biol Sci. 2007 Oct 30, by M. E. Arnold1, D. J. Paton , E. Ryan , S. J. Cox and J. W. Wilesmith is now available on the internet. ( We are grateful to FMD News for alerting us to this).
    Extract:
      " sensitivity for carrier detection can be optimized by adopting an individual-based testing regime in which all animals in all vaccinated herds are tested and positive animals rather than herds are culled."
    This may give strength to the view that individual tests should be used in preference to whole herd testing in which one positive assumes many false negatives and would result in whole herd killing. " It would be better simply to test all individuals and cull only those that are positive. Removing the need to cull entire herds whenever a single carrier is identified would allow the use of a test system in which more emphasis can be placed on sensitivity rather than specificity", say the authors.

Tuesday November 6 2007 ~ FMD restricted zone still in place over Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Hertfordshire, Berkshire, Surrey, Hampshire and West Sussex.

    (See BBC) Yesterday, the FMD Surveillance Zone was lifted and became part of the Restricted Zone. Fred Landeg has said that there has been "extensive surveillance work" in the old surveillance zone but only negative results have been returned. DEFRA says "Discussions are ongoing with the European Commission regarding further changes to allow the easing of export restrictions".

Tuesday November 6 2007 ~ "I’m responsible for saying that it’s their responsibility"

    The Welsh Rural Affairs Minister, Elin Jones, has told the annual autumn conference of NFU Cymru that the UK Government is morally responsible for the leak, and she would continue to press for compensation under the “polluter pays” principle, adding, "..I’m responsible for saying that it’s their responsibility and that farmers have been hit through no fault of their own.”
    See icwales.icnetwork.co.uk "Ms Jones was responding to NFU Clwyd chairman Ken Bellis who asked, “Why is it that the UK Government has set aside £13bn for consequential losses for people who invest in companies and lose their share money and hands out £30m to save Northern Rock but in Wales we get £6m and only £3m of that goes to farmers?"

Monday November 5 2007 ~ The Emerson's continuing sense of bereavement

    Portable on-site diagnostic tests that can detect virus before clinical signs appear - such as those used now so successfully in the former Soviet Bloc countries - have been rejected by the UK for seven years - presumably while the UK races to help produce its own commercial version.
    On Your Farm this week showed what it is like to be on the sharp end of the 'killing without testing' policy. It may be remembered that the animal welfare friendly farmers at Hunts Hill Farm thought their sacrifice (none of their free range animals proved after death to have been infected) was going to mean that theirs was the last farm where killing would need to take place. But a minimum of 33 holdings were killed out in the end. The Emersons are too much affected by the death of the animals they had cared for to continue to keep breeding cows. In spite of her stoicism, going into the deserted pig barn proved too much for Mrs Emerson. The UK policy depends on the kindly decency of such farmers - but it lets them down. Those of us who know how and why these scenes could have been avoided may feel that we have a duty to express our concerns to the Anderson Review.

Monday November 5 2007 ~ Killing without first testing to check for infection. We actually had killing taking place on a minimum of 33 holdings.

    A couple of weeks ago, (Hansard 24 October) Peter Ainsworth asked "at how many premises during the recent outbreaks of foot and mouth disease culling was undertaken before the receipt of test results." The answer was chilling.
      "With the exception of the first infected premises (IP1) where provisional positive laboratory results were available, authorisation to cull the remaining premises was made under the slaughter on suspicion or dangerous contact policies. Some of the subsequent premises may have been subject to earlier surveillance visits and blood testing, but culling was initiated at all the remaining 16 premises prior to the final laboratory test results being received."

Monday November 5 2007 ~For those who are going to write to Iain Anderson's Review

    Literally hundreds of animals killed were free of disease. 2,160 animals were compulsorily killed. There were 24 individual locations where killing took place as a result of the 8 "IP"s For the 7 so-called 'Dangerous Contacts' and 2 even more chillingly termed "Slaughter on Suspicion" there was also a minimum of 9 holdings Thus killing took place on 24 holdings plus at least 9 more, and even more than that if any of the SOS and DCs were made up of multiple holdings.
    So, from the escape of virus from Pirbright that could, with swift use of ring vaccination, have been cleared up within days, we actually had killing taking place on a minimum of 33 holdings.
    "At least one animal tested positive for foot and mouth disease at all eight of the infected premises" (which is why they are allowed to be termed "Infected Premises" ) but "no animals at the two remaining 'slaughter on suspicion' and seven 'dangerous contact' premises tested positive for foot and mouth disease" It will be remembered that a "premises" could comprise several separate holdings. Readers may like to consider this sort of thing when expressing their view of the handling of the Surrey outbreak. ( useful information from Parliamentary Questions.)
    The Anderson Review is mentioned below and on this DEFRA page.

November 2 2007 ~ Surveillance Zone to go at last

    DEFRA says it will be lifted on Monday 5 November "subject to there being no change in the disease situation and the completion of the necessary surveillance testing." See DEFRA page which also says, "Discussions are ongoing with the European Commission regarding further changes to allow the easing of export restrictions"

November 2 2007 ~ a moral and financial responsibility to compensate

    The Farmers Guardian reports on the £25million bill sent by Scotland to the British Government. Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Richard Lochhead said he expected the bill to be paid and accused Gordon Brown of 'bottling it', leaving Scotland's farmers and crofters in financial meltdown:
      “Despite the fact that this summer's foot-and-mouth outbreaks occurred hundreds of miles away in the south of England, the impact shattered many of our farmers and crofters here in Scotland, particularly in the sheep sector, both economically and emotionally... in 2007, the UK Government has the moral, and financial responsibility to compensate Scotland and they should get on with it."

November 1 2007 ~ "we should use the word killing" not the euphemism. "culling" is far too soft a word to describe what goes on, says local vet.

    Please see today's blog. ( It is sometimes hard to contain one's anger but this information based website is not perhaps the best place for it.)

Tuesday October 30 2007 ~ Comments about the outbreak and its handling are invited by 16 November 2007

    As we mentioned below, Dr Iain Anderson is once again going to chair a review of the Government's reaction to the 2007 Foot and Mouth Disease Outbreak. He has been asked to review lessons drawn from the 2001 outbreak and identify any others arising from the current outbreak. Comments have to be received by 16th November. See also www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk
    The decision not to use emergency vaccination was astonishing. The handling by DEFRA illustrates the woeful lack of understanding within the Department of viral disease. All the conditions for immediate success had been met. We knew the source. We knew the strain. We had the laboratory within arms length and we knew the timescale. The virus could have been stopped in its tracks within days by ring vaccination from the outside in.
    2000 animals in Surrey would not have had to be slaughtered and nor would the obscenely termed "welfare culls" of half a million healthy hill lambs have been needed. It seems highly likely that the EU would have been sympathetic to such emergency action and would have looked with favour on regionalisation of the immediate area so that the absurd situation of a general country-wide shut down need never have arisen. It could well have led to the outdated regulations receiving critical re-evaluation.
    Because rapid on-site testing was not done except for antibodies, only a handful of the 2000 animals killed turned out to have been infected. If people do not make these points there will be no barriers at all against yet another anodyne report being written and self-congratulation all round.

Monday October 29 2007 ~ The escape of virus results in at least half a million wasted, incinerated sheep ... and "it will not just be the sheep that disappear"...

    One of the results of the government's decision that it was not worth taking seriously the often expressed worries about biosafety and funding at Pirbright is - as the Guardian tells us this morning - that
      "250,000 healthy Welsh hill lambs will be culled and incinerated in the next few weeks to avoid a welfare disaster. The move follows restrictions imposed during the latest foot and mouth disease outbreak and a similar cull of up to 250,000 lambs now taking place in Scotland."
    That this lamb meat is simply being thrown away would be almost unbelievable to outsiders but although giving the meat to pensioners free for Christmas or canning it, or sending it to Malawi or just freezing it had been considered, the Guardian quotes Louise Welsh, a spokeswoman for Scottish Quality Meats:
      "all the options were illegal or would have distorted the market"
    And the knock-on effects for Great Britain? As Dan Buglass says in the Scotsman this morning, ".. if hill farmers do not receive a fair price for their lambs and wool, then there will be a second Highland Clearance, and it will not just be the sheep that disappear. If the sheep go then the entire rural infrastructure is hugely at risk." And this, of course, applies not just to Scotland but the hills of Wales, to Cumbria and other areas where the uplands, cropped and beautiful, are such a well loved part of the landscape.

Sunday October 28 ~ DEFRA spent £1 billion on management consultants - while the Pirbright site repairs were urgently needed and flood defences were cut

    The Sunday Telegraph says that DEFRA more than doubled its spending on information technology specialists, management consultants and temporary staff while cutting £15 million from its flood defence budget.
      "Written parliamentary answers show that as spending on consultants spiralled into the hundreds of millions of pounds in 2006 and 2007, officials dragged their heels over vital repair work to effluent pipes at a research centre that would eventually cause the foot and mouth outbreak."
    Employing management consultants may perhaps assuage the Department's hidden anxieties - but meanwhile nothing much is done and things fall apart. When local responsibility and expertise is taken away in order for a centralised government department lacking even basic manangement skills to assume control, people on the ground, the experts who knew what to do in the past, have been disempowered. Their hands are tied by oppressive regulations. People who are feeling frustrated and helpless are looking in vain for informed leadership from central government. As Peter Ainsworth says: "While consultants are getting rich on taxpayers' money, Defra is failing farmers and rural communities."

Thursday Oct 25 2007 ~"we will do everything in our power to help them" Gordon Brown yesterday

    It was pointed out that Secretary of State's best guess at losses incurred was £100 million,
      " but that differs sharply from the figure that emerged from a meeting in my constituency last night, which suggested that the sheep industry alone would lose £520 million. The outbreak is fundamentally different from previous outbreaks. The Government are responsible for this outbreak because they licensed the premises... "
    But Roger Williams, the Liberal Democrat MP for Brecon and Radnorshire, was not allowed to finish. (Hansard) All the same, just because the government is tired of hearing that the FMD crisis was caused by an escape of virus from Pirbright does not mean that this rather fundamental fact should be irritably brushed aside. The Prime Minister evidently thinks that all will be well - "We have set aside additional money to help farmers. We have also reduced the amount of regulation that farmers have to undertake. We have also slowed down the demands from the Inland Revenue for taxation from farmers. We have done what we can, in consultation with the National Farmers Union, to help farmers. I realise that this is a difficult time, especially for sheep farmers and hill farmers, but we will do everything in our power to help them."

Wednesday Oct 24 2007 ~ "I am keen to make progress on savings in animal health..."

    So said Hilary Benn to the EFRA Committee.
    Almost unbelievable.
    The WMN reports this and we will put up a link to what was actually said at the EFRA Committee as soon as it becomes available.

Wednesday Oct 24 2007 ~ "they estimated the cost of the outbreak to the UK over the autumn was £520m, and up to £150m for the sheep industry in Wales alone..."

    The BBC reports on last night's meeting in Builth Wells in which hundreds of farmers met to "raise awareness of the difficulties facing the industry". In an earlier edition of the article under the headline Farmers meeting over 'crisis' the BBC's decision was to use inverted commas around the word "crisis" - a practice that absolves media from the charge that it necessarily agrees with the word so placed. Interesting that the headline now reads simply "Farmers meet over disease costs"
    In its coverage of the meeting /icwales.icnetwork.co.ukcommenting on the Northern Rock rescue package, says, "Government is apparently prepared to do what it takes for the producers of money in the City, while leaving the producers of food to fend for themselves."

Oct 20 2007 ~ multiple pick-ups will be allowed and the pre-slaughter residency is reduced from 30 days to 21 days

    The EU Commission's Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health, SCFCAH, has agreed to reduce the size of the restriction zone surrounding the outbreak area in south-east England and to allow livestock to be transported through and slaughtered in the restriction zone. They also agreed to prolong the now reduced restriction measures until Dec 15.

Oct 20 2007 ~ "It seems odd that, despite the drains having been repaired, the licence is now suspended."

    James Paice points out in an early part of the debate on Wednesday that DEFRA had been told several times and at least as early as 2002, that the drains were in a terrible state. Yet nothing was done and after the December 2006 "inspection"by DEFRA the licence was renewed. That licence renewal allowed a disaster to happen.
    For the £220,000 and six weeks' work it has taken to renew the drains, the outbreak - with its losses in millions of pounds, human anxiety, frustration and grief - could have been averted. Repair work is now complete. The licence, however, has been taken away.
    Meanwhile, unless work on Bluetongue vaccine - work that Professor Spratt himself says entails no risk - starts before the end of October there will be no vaccine available at the time of greatest need and urgency in 2008.

Oct 20 2007 ~ James Paice asks, "What farmers need to know is, who is going to pay the price?"

    "When will somebody in DEFRA be accountable for this latest fiasco? ....we know that, as always with this Government, it will never be their fault. It is never their responsibility....The can, of course, is being carried - by the poor farmers up and down the country who cannot sell their stock, buy new stock, pay their bills or see a positive future..."
    Even James Paice does not insist hard enough on the point: Work on virus has been halted at Merial by DEFRA edict (not, incidentally, at IAH or Stabilitech).
    Is this not intended as a clear signal implying to the world the unfair and unproven suspicion that it was Merial that wasn't safe and Merial that is therefore financially responsible? It is hard to come to any other conclusion. (James Paice's speech in the debate)

Oct 20 ~ "Source of infection * Unknown or inconclusive"

    Although Debby Reynolds seems to have disappeared from view, her extremely brief follow-up report number 11, received by the OIE yesterday, can be seen on the WAHID site. As always, we read that the source of infection is unknown or inconclusive - which seems a trifle bizarre, while under "Measures already applied", we note yet again that the reality of the UK situation cannot be conveyed by such phrases as : "Vaccination permitted.....No treatment of affected animals" and so on. What there is can be found at the WAHID interface - but it is hardly a "report".
    In contrast, the latest Bluetongue report, although only up to date as far as October 12, names premises, gives numbers, specifies the affected species and does contain information that is of interest and use.

Oct 20 ~ Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? accounting and accountability - do they still count?

    Bill Wiggin had this to say in Wednesday's debate:
      ".... it is worth reminding the House that the Bill for foot and mouth so far is £250 million. The single farm payment fine was £305 million. Bovine tuberculosis has cost £100 million. So far, that is £650 million of incompetence. ... The Department has failed to offer protection in the areas for which it is responsible. DEFRA has failed the people who trusted it and it has failed the test of competence."
    But what follows such failure? In any other walk of life there would have to be a reckoning. Taking responsibility for failure no longer happens in government because there is no one to make it happen. Until there can be an expert and independent means of evaluating and holding to account those who direct policy and ask for compliance, the downward spiral of lack of trust and frustration is going to reach rock bottom. Many decent farmers of livestock, unable to see anything good on the horizon, are giving up in despair. If the government thinks that cheap imports of doubtful provenance will feed the country for long they are surely in a for a rude awakening - but what of the countryside? Do they really not comprehend the delicate balance between livestock and the cultural heritage of the landscape?
    (Warmwell has produced Wednesday's debate as a searchable pdf file.)

Oct 20 ~ "DEFRA not only inspected safety arrangements but approved spending at the plant. There could not be a more clear conflict of interest."

    Chris Huhne in the debate. Diagnostic and research laboratories that help support veterinary medicine should - in order to be safe and effective - be full of "can do" scientists recruited for their excellence, state of the art equipment, safe facilities and high morale at the knowledge of a job well done and their expert advice both sought and respected. Such a description can hardly be said to fit Pirbright at present. The maintenance of excellence and the safety of the bio-containment facilities needs, of course, to be audited for everyone's sake. But it must be done - as a matter of course, not as a result of an avoidable accident - by such an independent set of experts, unencumbered by political considerations, as we eventually saw there. The results must matter and recommendations be acted upon.

Oct 20 ~ "A total of 2,160 animals have been compulsorily culled as a result of the recent outbreak of foot and mouth disease"

    Peter Ainsworth's Parliamentary Questions were answered by Jonathan Shaw - who told the House of Commons that of these 2,160 cows, calves, sheep, pigs and goats killed on the 24 individual locations "at least one animal tested positive for foot and mouth disease at all eight of the infected premises"
    He did not explain why a further sixteen premises to those 8 were designated so dangerous that their animals - uninfected as they turned out to be - had to be killed. It seems incredible that the killing of healthy animals - at such emotional cost to the farmers and owners involved - carried out as a draconian belt and braces precaution without waiting for test results - is still allowed to pass without further comment when such figures are given in parliamentary answers. What follow-up ever follows? Yet such damning figures should indeed be questioned. The suspected animals were all in a zone where no animal could move to pass contagion beyond the farm. The sophisticated testing and surveillance methods of a 21st century developed country should have been considered adequate safeguards against spread.
    But the Opposition parties too - when the vaccines are so advanced, proven and safe - show a woeful lack of both of courage and of understanding not to shame the government by working towards ending the penalisation enshrined in the EU Directive which is, of course, the true reason behind the UK failure to use FMD vaccination.

Oct 20 ~ "A new comprehensive system for searching for information on WTO member governments' sanitary and phytosanitary measures"

    - food safety and animal and plant health and safety - has been launched ..... the system allows searches to be based on a variety of criteria such as geographic groupings, product codes, comment periods, keywords, etc. A brief exploration suggests to us that more work is required urgently if this system is to be of use to the "interested people" hoping to "find SPS information according to their specific needs" - but comments would be welcome.

Oct 20 ~ "Acceptable risk" says official FMD Expert Group

    From the FMD Expert Group's (composition unknown - information gratefully received) report on risk (VRA RD6) "......it is estimated that around 2 million FMD susceptible animals have been inspected nationwide within the last 6 weeks and that there have been no grounds for concern arising from these inspections..."Given the surveillance already completed in the PZ, the risk of spread beyond a standard 10km surveillance zone is therefore very low....There is a low risk of undetected disease in the current surveillance areas or any new additional surveillance area.....no direct or indirect evidence of illegal movements since surveillance commenced....It has been agreed with the Commission that further work will be done in a radius of 20km from Pirbright to demonstrate that there is no undisclosed disease as a result of the original release of the FMD virus from the Pirbright site. ....The risk that live virus remains in fomites in sufficient quantity to give rise to infection is negligible.....given the risk mitigating measures in place or proposed, the risk of returning the area of GB outside that reduced RZ to the baseline levels of biosecurity and the movement standstill regime applicable before 3 August 2007 is acceptable."

Oct 16 ~ ".. there are very good scientific and economic reasons why we do not vaccinate routinely. The most pertinent of these is 'which strain of FMD should we vaccinate against'?”

    The gloom with which one reads the article on the icwales site this morning, Looking back over 40 years of foot-and-mouth, can only be heightened by such comment as this by Dai Davies the NFU president in Wales.
      " While vaccination may appear attractive to the lay man .... there are very good scientific and economic reasons why we do not vaccinate routinely. The most pertinent of these is 'which strain of FMD should we vaccinate against'?”
    The argument with which he attempts to patronise the "layman" hardly holds water. Anyone who was awake on August 4th and appalled by the escape of virus from Pirbright was at least able - prematurely - to heave a sigh of relief thinking:
    • At least we know the strain
    • At least we have appropriate vaccine almost within yards
    • At least this time the false scientific arguments against vaccination are long since exploded.
    But no. Without benefit of on-site testing the extended culling began, as in 2001, with the weirdest slaughter designations and a multiplicity of terms emerging that no one seems able to define: SOS? DC? firebreak?
    As for the justification for killing around IP8 what was it? Airborne spread? fomites? Virus carried in by the fairies? No one was telling - either before or after the tests came back negative.
    The decision not to vaccinate but to revert to stamping out or the equally unpleasant bearing down on disease led, as it did in 2001, to widespread anxiety, emotional trauma, the loss of many healthy animals and a standstill for farmers as far away as Shetland.
    The rules have to be changed. But DEFRA's preference for messy and unjustifiable killing instead of the informed use of modern technology has made us a byword for cruel idiocy on the other side of the Channel and will do nothing but send the message to Brussels that its mad, bad regulations are acceptable to Member States.

Oct 15 2007 ~ The East Sussex case may be Bluetongue

    But what seems to be emerging is that it is not Foot and Mouth. The clinical symptoms are of course similar and, as has been said on this website several times, tests at the moment should always be carried out for both.

Oct 15 2007 ~Another FMD case or another false alarm?

    The new Temporary Zone is centred on Beckley and Peasmarsh in Sussex. DEFRA pdf "The new zone "comprises that part of England contained within a circle with a radius of 3 kilometre centred on grid reference TQ 8648624988. In its inimitable language, DEFRA commands that " The keeper of a susceptible animal in the Zone shall take all such steps as are necessary to prevent it from straying from the premises on which it is kept..." See map of new temporary zone here.
    The BBC - which seems to get information long before anyone else, says that the "3km foot-and-mouth temporary control zone has been put in place around premises in East Sussex. It follows a veterinary assessment of suspected signs of the disease in sheep. Tests are in progress on livestock at the site near Rye. The government had planned to lift the movement ban in low-risk foot-and-mouth areas on 17 October. The plan also to lift the Surrey foot-and-mouth protection zone was dependent on no further outbreaks." This news - if it proves to be a positive case - could not have come at a crueller time.

Oct 15 2007 ~ Many farmers .. now convinced there is “a hidden agenda” inside the Government

    DEFRA wants the UK to stop drinking fresh milk. It says methane emissions from dairy cattle should be reduced by 60 per cent within 15 to 20 years:
      "Officials at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs have made a serious proposal that consumers switch to UHT (Ultra-High Temperature or Ultra-Heat Treated) milk to reduce greenhouse gas emissions"
    explains Valerie Elliott in the Times this morning. Michael Greaves, who alerted us to this, comments that it is yet another "example of the Kafkaesque world inhabited by DEFRA". The Times quotes Ionwen Lewis, President of the Women's Food and Farming Union: “We are very privileged in this country to be drinking fresh pasteurised milk.....” - and this is very true. In France, for example, fresh milk tended only on to be on sale where there were enough British immigrants to make it worthwhile but many of the French are now buying it too. The dairy adviser at the NFU says the DEFRA target could be achieved only by destroying half the national dairy herd. The Chairman of the NFU's dairy board, Gwyn Jones' comment:
      " I believe there are people inside the Government who are trying to destroy our industry. Here we are in the middle of fighting two diseases and this pops up from Defra. You have to wonder what is going on if our own people are plotting against us."
    Conspiracy? Or an insensitivity and incompetence of such breadth and depth that it amounts to the same thing.

Oct 14 2007 ~ It is only the financial interest of a small number of livestock farmers - who would, for a time, be prevented from exporting their animals - that prevents vaccines from being used.

    Clive Aslet, writing in the Sunday Telegraph echoes what warmwell has always maintained, that in those far-off days of August, it appeared that the Brown government had learnt the lessons of 2001. "Vaccination was talked of sympathetically. Since then, Defra has reverted to type.....when a vaccine for Bluetongue is ready, there is no doubt that it will be used" and then...
      "This ought to pave the way for foot and mouth vaccine to be used as a matter of course throughout Europe.
      Probably Europe would welcome it. We were the ones who pressed for Europe to be treated as a foot and mouth free zone in the first place. The policy suited us. As an island nation, we thought we could keep foot and mouth out. Clearly, we can't. But we go on as though - with just one more bout of obscene slaughter - we might be able to. Time to stop deluding ourselves. If we did, winter - as far as our ethical position towards farm animals is concerned - might give way to spring."
    Clive Aslet, Editor at Large of Country Life, reminds readers that "We don't need this obscene slaughter" and it is cheering to find that there are commentators talking about the ethical treatment of animals. ".. For the meat won't be sold in supermarkets (we consumers are said to be too finicky to buy it). It will be incinerated. Won't the Third World goggle at us in appalled disbelief?"

Oct 13 2007 ~"I have no knowledge of your allegations, nor does my office, and I do not accept them." Peter Hain

    icWales quotes the Shadow Welsh Secretary, Cheryl Gillan, who last night accused Peter Hain of dismissing her concerns about compensation payments. She says that Mr Hain ".. is quick to exonerate himself from any blame on this issue." Mr Hain had replied to a letter from Ms Gillan by saying,
      “I have no knowledge of your allegations, nor does my office, and I do not accept them. Our Government and the Welsh Assembly Government recognise the huge damage caused by foot-and-mouth and will continue to support those farmers affected. “As Secretary of State for Wales I will continue to ensure that the interests of Welsh farmers are properly represented.”
    And that was all. It left her wondering whether he had even bothered to discuss the matter with DEFRA and the Treasury. Peter Hain, who has been Secretary of State for Wales before, from 2002 to 2005, was given two jobs by Gordon Brown:Secretary of State for Wales again but in addition, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.

Oct 13 2007 ~ "Mr Benn was generous with platitudes..."

    The FWi reports that poor Hilary Benn, when confronted by some very anxious and angry farmers at Skipton Auction Mart, could do no more, than try to defend himself with the usual political Spinspeak. But with people who speak actual English, such phrases as "we are working closely with supermarkets" and "we want to increase the promotion of British meat" cut no ice. As the FWi says, they "served only to expose the minister's failure to grasp what is really at stake here..."
      " But, then, this is a man who in the midst of a serious crisis gripping agriculture, chose to make a statement at his party's annual conference about the banning of energy-sapping light bulbs by 2012..."
    So not much illumination from that quarter. We are reaping a very dark harvest. The centralisation of agriculture into the hands of DEFRA and its increasing dependence on the Brussels "one size fits all" mentality has led only to mistrust, confusion and the erosion of common sense.

Oct 13 2007 ~ IAH's "rapid diagnosis and detective work" still fails to find active pre-clinical virus quickly enough

    IAH BBSRC's Statement14 claims of rapid diagnosis do not make clear that the pen-side tests being used do not - as the state-of-the-art machines used elsewhere do - indicate the presence of pre-clinical desease
      "...tests for the presence of virus on infected premises 6 and 7 were done in the evening/night time and daytime, respectively. On both occasions Test 1 (using a lateral flow device, rather like a pregnancy test gave a positive result within an hour. Interestingly, this test was actually performed on the farm (“pen-side”) in the case of infected premises 7"
    Perhaps so, but the positive result the test found was for antigen. What we have needed all along was the rapid on-site RT-PCR tests that can find disease in animals before they show any clinical signs at all. It doesn't matter how quickly the penside lateral flow device is used at the lab or on the farm - it is designed to detect antigen and this can only be detected from lesions The animals must have developed lesions, hence the instruction to look for lesions twice a day, before the penside test can be used at all.
    It is so obviously better to pick up infection before it reaches the stage when a number of animals can be seen to be clinically infected.
    So although IAH's statement claims that "A positive result in the very rapid Test 1 is of itself sufficient to show that FMD virus is present. Consequently IAH was able to tell Defra within an hour of the test being started that a premises did indeed have FMD virus, enabling Defra to take action" the "action" was always going to be along the lines of stable door slamming after the horse was already far away.

Oct 12 2007 ~ We can only hope that there will be no more cases discovered.

    Nearly all restrictions that were put in place after the Pirbright FMD outbreak will be lifted next Wednesday - except for the at risk zones.
    Farms that fall inside the "foot-and-mouth risk area" i.e. most of south-east England and the Home Counties and inside the bluetongue control areas - Suffolk, parts of Norfolk, Essex and Cambridgeshire - are not going to be able to benefit from the lifting of the EU meat imports ban.
    And the fallout continues. The Welsh Rural Affairs Minister, Erin Jones, has said that a tender process is under way for the "light lamb welfare disposal scheme" which will be introduced when the European Commission have given their clearance. "we are finalising operational details for collection, slaughter, transport and disposal," she says - and these words do not convey the waste and sadness of seeing so many small lambs across the country being "disposed of".

Oct 12 2007 ~ it has been a costly and bloody gamble not to vaccinate - and madness not to use state-of -the -art diagnosis

    Since IP6, IP7 and IP8 had fresh disease present (FMD lesions discovered were only between 1 and 4 days old) one cannot be certain of anything and it has been a costly and bloody gamble not to vaccinate; ( one can't help remembering that DEFRA announced that the virus had been contained after IP2 only to have it reappear on September 12).
    The whole affair has highlighted yet again the fact that foot and mouth is a political and economic disease.
    This strain of the virus, 01 BFS1860, has produced such mild symptoms that many animals recovered before the slow UK tests showed they had had the disease. That has not prevented the killing of about 2000 animals, mostly negative post mortem. What is so hard to bear - quite apart from the vaccination question - is the fact that for six years the UK has ignored available rapid diagnostic on-site tests that can diagnose pre clinical disease. These portable, simple kits would have saved the healthy animals, including the pet lambs of the lady culled out near IP8, and saved so much of the misery we'd hoped after 2001 never to see again.

Oct 11 2007 ~ "The land is suffering"

    Hardship coupled with emotional stress can turn people into poets. Here, reported in the Herald, is a Scots farmer watching not only his own livelihood slip away but the future too.
      "....However bad things were in the past, I could always see some way of working our way out of it....but there is no grass left. As it was, I was keeping some of them (the lambs) indoors because there was nothing for them outside. The land is suffering.....I don't care whether support comes from Edinburgh or London, but if the politicians don't act there won't be hill farms here any more. If that happens, I simply don't know what I would do, nor does my son."
    London support? The wooden hearts and heads at Westminster are embarrassed to find that a particularly cynical decision has come to light. The draft copy of Hilary Benn's Ministerial Statement (the one with which Mr Benn seemed strangely unfamiliar - see here) said "I have agreed with the Chief Secretary to the Treasury that Scotland should receive £8.1million and Wales £6.5m to assist them in countering the impacts of foot and mouth on their livestock farmers...." But once a decision had been reached not to call an election, this changed to
      "I am announcing today a package of assistance for the English livestock sector, amounting to £12.5m. The devolved administrations are proposing to introduce their own schemes."
    Those eight millions have evaporated. Scotland's SNP "Alas, poor country! Almost afraid to know itself" - here is demanding an explanation. Wales in is the same miserable boat.
    UPDATE Wales is asking questions. Where are our millions? See dailypost.co.uk

Oct 11 2007 ~ Rules bending with the wind

    An email from Alan Beat points out the curious case of the bending rules. Although EU rules state very firmly that exports may resume only when - in the case of non-vaccination - three months have elapsed since the last case - rules that are agreed internationally by the OIE - we see Brazil (using vaccination) facing a 2 month ban only, for the FMD affected region only; while the UK (using slaughter) can start trading again from unaffected regions just a few days after the latest case on October 12 (And there is of course no certainty that it will prove to be the last case , the bloody firebreak killing that went on around IP8 notwithstanding).
    So Alan Beat asks why, if the rules can be broken to regionalise the affected and vaccinated area and restart trading everywhere else, this cannot happen in the UK too and vaccination be adopted instead of merely considered. "Or am I missing something?" he asks.

Oct 11 2007 ~ Dispatches from the front line

    2007 October
      " I regret that we are finding DEFRA absolutely unbending on almost every issue. We are having the threat of closure waved at us almost every day by jumped up little officials behaving like Nazi prison guards. Somehow they think we can control what clothes farmers wear to come ..... We understand the need for waterproofs but short of having a gate guard who examines each farmer, I am not sure what we can do.
      Most of us feel that the continued imposition of the 20 day rule is unnecessary especially since we could not really be further from the source of the (DEFRA cock-up) outbreak but no, they will not budge...."
    2001 November (Westmorland Gazette)
      "....Come on ministers, surprise me and tell us the way forward for British Agriculture. You say you want a strong, vibrant agriculture, well you could have fooled me; so come on show me how wrong I have been.
      You may remember I told you about the government taking powers to seize one's cattle and sheep with no right of appeal.
      If that would not mean we were living in a police state, well you could have fooled me.
      I also said that what Elliott Morley (minister) would be better doing, was adopting the test for foot-and-mouth disease perfected by Professor Fred Brown of the United States Research Centre at Plum Island....."
    Six years on. The same arrogant, jack-booted mentality that "knew best" in 2001 is still goose-stepping over the efforts and advice of those who want to help keep Britain farming. And what was written by the same farming commentator, six years ago in October 2001, on the subject of emergency ring vaccination, makes DEFRA's lack of progress seem even more unbelievable.

Oct 10 ~ " ...vaccination was rejected then, and it appears that vaccination has been rejected once more. Will the Secretary of State tell me why it has been rejected and under what circumstances we will use vaccine in the future?"

    In Monday's debate, Carlisle's MP, Eric Martlew, tried to highlight the extraordinary doublethink that has been going on in the past weeks. Those who oppose vaccination for FMD on economic grounds tie themselves in knots ( Hilary Benn's attempt to answer Mr Martlew takes some wading through) trying to suggest that vaccination for bluetongue is somehow 'better'. We note with great dismay that certain MEPs - the very people who could help change the outmoded rules that penalise vaccination - have been writing to constituents such objections to FMD vaccination as "it does not cure the disease" and "vaccinated animals are often still culled" or that vaccination is only really of use in a "massive outbreak"
    One thin ray of light however came from the Animal Health and Welfare Adviser of the NFU who wrote to Jon Dobson (after his complaint at the misleading information warmwell highlighted last week)
      "We will amend the NFU vaccination Q&A to clarify the issue of safety around an FMD vaccine and thank you for pointing out the potential confusion that could have been caused by our original text.
    If the NFU is taking seriously " its obligations and commitments to present accurate and balanced information" it is managing better than it did in 2001 and better than those making such a miserable hash of FMD in 2007

Oct 9 ~ "We have absolutely no faith in Defra.."

    "...which must own up to its legal and moral responsibility to compensate farmers for its clear shortcomings. If we do not receive some better news [on livestock movements] there is every prospect that we will be out on the streets before the end of this week, and that has not happened for a very long time." Jim McLaren, president of NFU Scotland is quoted this morning in the Scotsman in an article that centres on the ever-deepening frustration in Scotland as a £1 billion loss for the UK as a whole is estimated.
    In theory, exports of beef and lamb to Europe are now permitted, "but the strictures on livestock movements make it all but impossible" Dan Buglass describes the "fractious nature of the communications" between farming unions and DEFRA. Jim McLaren's warning of angry demonstrations looks set to be realised - perhaps one more step towards a breakaway from England.

Oct 9 ~ "We've got the export market back but the lambs are now inedible.."

    "..and even if we could sell them there would be a backlog of months because we normally sell 10,000 per week and we have hundreds of thousands..." The Times, under its headline "Healthy lambs will be slaughtered and burnt" reports on the
      "intense political row between ministers at Holyrood and Westminster...Defra had a moral duty to pay for the Scottish welfare cull..."
    But another moral duty is that of the livestock producer towards animals. Once taken for granted, the unspoken but correct contract was that the safety and welfare of the animal, in return for its meat, hide or wool would be guarded by the good farmer up to the day it died to fulfil its side of the bargain. And there are still farmers who feel that to be true. There is an unsentimental sadness, not just for the waste and the loss of being stuck in such a position against their will - but also for the starving lambs themselves now facing as unpleasant a mass slaughter as can be imagined. DEFRA's disease policy has wrested responsibility out of the hands of the farmers. Any such sentiment as compassion for the animals is likely to be met with embarrassment, a sneer or simple incomprehension. But a society that cannot recognise when callousness is masquerading as pragmatism is indeed in trouble.

Oct 9 ~ DEFRA's "professionalism, dedication and commitment" is praised by the Minister

    In a Parliamentary statement, Hilary Benn admits somewhat unnecessarily "It cannot be said with complete certainty exactly how the virus escaped from the Pirbright site..."
    The media has already prophecied that the new Anderson review would criticise and blame DEFRA " for failing to fund improvements to the site, which was described as "shabby" and "unsatisfactory" by parliamentary committees earlier this year..." (Telegraph) and Hilary Benn is in a very uncomfortable position.
    "....we are determined that it does not happen again," asserts poor Mr Benn, "I have accepted all of the recommendations in the reports from the HSE and Professor Spratt." But DEFRA's record in accepting and acting upon the recommendations of various reports has hardly been professional, dedicated or committed in the recent past and Mr Benn may well be finding himself completely out of his depth.

Oct 8 2007 ~ Hilary Benn today announced a package of support, worth £12.5 million, for farmers in England affected by the current movement restrictions

    • £8.5m in the form of a one off payment for hill farmers;
    • £1m to raise the level of subsidy for the National Fallen Stock Scheme for farmers in the FMD Risk Area from 10% to 100%. This will be available to all livestock keepers in the FMD Risk Area;
    • A contribution of up to £1m to the Arthur Rank Centre for disbursement to farming charities, which provide advice and practical and emotional support to farming families; and
    • £2m for promotion and marketing of lamb, beef and pork both domestically and in export markets.
    The National Fallen Stock scheme has been almost as much of a fiasco as the RPA. Comments about the other payments would be welcome. The opinion of David Fursdon, president of the CLA is that DEFRA is evidently "feeling some responsibility for this sorry mess" Quoted at www.cla.org.uk
      ".... When you consider the combined impact of these disease outbreaks it is clear this financial package is but a drop in the ocean and will only meet a small fraction of the economic damage to businesses, especially for those indirectly affected. This package includes ring-fenced funds for a number of issues that have been highlighted to Ministers over the past few weeks...the full impact may not be known for some time. The ban on exports alone resulted in the loss of at least £2 million per day which shows the true cost of these outbreaks."

Oct 8 2007 ~ Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire, Oxfordshire and West Sussex may be freed from the high risk zone

    There were hopes this week that Defra would announce relaxations to foot-and-mouth restrictions and remove a number of counties from the high risk zone. Farmers Guardian
      .......a case for the removal of counties like Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire, Oxfordshire and West Sussex from the zone. ......unlikely however that counties like Hampshire and Berkshire will be released yet because of their proximity to the outbreaks in Surrey."
    This is, according to the Farmers Guardian's always reliable Alistair Driver, because Friday's epidemiological report from DEFRA said it was very unlikely that foot-and-mouth had spread out of the localised area in Surrey. However, the section on page 17 asking if FMD virus could be outside the PZ and SZ zones uses movement patterns from 2006 to gauge risk while on page 5, the report says that the new cases "raise concern that others may arise" and paragraph 31 expresses evident irritation at the "intractable" behaviour of some of the cattle making surveillance difficult as the cows evidently resent being approached. (They have perhaps heard of DEFRA's preference for "depopulation" rather than for vaccination and veterinary care.)

Oct 8 2007 ~Waitrose today announced that it is to increase the prices it pays its beef and lamb producers.

    See www.meatinfo.co.uk "It said the market busting moves are designed to protect beef and lamb farmers from volatility in the market and offer them some financial protection in the wake of Blue Tongue and Foot and Mouth Disease. The supermarket chain raised its payments to beef farmers by 10p a kilo today, giving farmers a minimum base price of at least £2.25 per kilo. The retailer has also introduced a series of structured payment increases over the next 18 months with the aim of reaching base level payments of £2.50. The new long term pricing structure is designed to give farmers some protection and allow them to plan ahead."

Oct 8 2007 ~ John Beddington and "the job from hell"

    As noted below, in January Professor John Beddington, a professor of applied population biology at Imperial College, and present Chair of the SAC committee, takes over from David King - (now, as is the nature of these things, "Sir" David King.)
    An article in the Guardian today by Tim Radford sounds a warning note:
      "For a hint of what is to come, simply contemplate the procession of horrors, heartaches and howlers that have mugged the world's scientific advisers during the last three decades.."
    ~ but Mr Radford's assumption that because Prof Beddington comes from Imperial College and has been a scientific adviser to DEFRA he must therefore "... already know a bit about foot and mouth, bluetongue virus" etc does not, unfortunately, follow. We have the example of David King, alas, to prove that this is not so.

Oct 8 2007 ~ While Professor King may be an international expert in many, many things it is a tragedy for the UK that he has been directing policy on Foot and Mouth

    about which he has displayed such distressing ignorance. He has continued to defend both the contiguous cull and the failure to use vaccination in 2001. He even went so far as to say that the on-site rapid portable diagnostic kit turned down in 2001- (it performed extremely well in Uruguay in 2001, similar devices are now used in many countries, and a prototype of a "next generation" device intended for point of need PCR testing across all of animal and plant agriculture and the food industry will be demonstrated in Brussels next week) was "not capable of being validated" (Radio 4 transcript) This small selection of the many warmwell files on the subject of Prof King's bizarre pronouncements from the past 6 years includes a quotation from Jason Groves, London editor of the WMN from 24 January 2005
      "....Government's plans for tackling a future outbreak of foot and mouth disease have been thrown into disarray after the government's Chief Scientist suggested that vaccination was still not a practical option for controlling the disease. .... His comments will fuel fears that the Government has done little more than pay lip service to vaccination... appear to directly contradict the official policy of the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), which suggests that it would give early consideration to using vaccination in any future outbreak.."
    The NFU's Anthony Gibson said that Sir David appeared to have no understanding of farming or what was suffered by farmers who were forced to watch the destruction of entire pedigree herds in their farmyards.
      "To him it appears to be a dry statistical exercise, whereas to those involved it was flesh, blood, tears, sweat and heartbreak."
    We can only hope that, in contrast, Professor Beddington can prove himself to be capable of what Tim Radford describes: a "smart scientist with profound knowledge of everything." It is a tall order.

Monday Oct 8 2007 ~"...powerless to stop it, while pointlessly disrupting the habits and interests of livestock owners by bringing commercial transactions to a standstill"

    It has been said many times that the policy now imposed within the EU against Foot and Mouth turns an outbreak into a national catastrophe - but it is, as Abigail Woods so clearly explained, a manufactured catastrophe following a manufactured plague. Instead of taking full advantage of the miracles of modern veterinary expertise, the understanding of 21st century virology in the creation of excellent vaccines, and state of the art technical ability to give - actually on-site - an almost immediate diagnosis, the EU policy gives preference to the "stamping out"of life - a process that is eradicating decent small livestock farmers too.
    One man sums it up:
      "In rural areas where foot and mouth disease holds sway, nothing, at least up to the present day, has been able to halt its progress. Suffice it to say that, among the regulatory sanitary measures applicable to contagious diseases in general, none apart from the obligation to declare the presence of the disease to the authorities, could reasonably be applied to this disease: no matter how benign the measure, it would undoubtedly be excessive, or would be powerless to stop it, while pointlessly disrupting the habits and interests of livestock owners by bringing commercial transactions to a standstill” (Translated from the french Reynal J. Traite´ de police sanitaire des animaux domestiques. Paris: Asselin; 1873. p. 1012.)
    130 years on and the dinosaur mentality at the top of DEFRA ensures that nothing has changed.

Oct 7 2007 ~" this contempt for agriculture will produce a crisis beside which everything seen so far will pale into insignificance"

    Christopher Booker's column in the Sunday Telegraph today concerns the plight of the sheep farmers who are about to see "huge quantities of perfectly safe meat, from animals in Scotland, Wales and parts of England.... incinerated, at further cost to farmers, who will see most of their year's income go up in smoke." The article illustrates Mr Booker's ability to see not only the plight of the UK trees under the shadow of the EU wood - but also to project that vision into the bleak future.
      "With this latest foot and mouth disaster, bluetongue, the farm payments fiasco (which has cost Britain £400 million in lost EU subsidies), the bovine TB epidemic estimated to cost taxpayers £2 billion by 2014, and much else, there seems no end to the crises our farmers must endure.
      Most have been caused, or made far worse, by our Government's own limitless incompetence.
      A large part of the problem is that farming and the need to provide the nation with food could scarcely have been pushed further down this urban Government's agenda."
    Each of these issues is of concern to warmwell. The RPA page's latest entry almost defies belief, the bluetongue page illustrates the UK's deafness to the experience that has been so hard won in Europe. The TB page deplores the UK intransigence over rapid diagnosis and its preference for killing cows than seeking solutions The "need to provide the nation with food" will be more and more urgently needed - as we suggest below.And the contemptuous fiddling at DEFRA can only bring closer the burning problems of the future.
    Escape is possible from the mad, bad destructive regulations over which we have so little control. There are now so many voices crying in the wilderness that the combined roar must surely soon wake the sleepwalking nation from its nightmare slide towards ruin - but time is short.

Oct 7 2007 ~ Migration - or at least refurbishment

    Thanks to the Umbrella Blog network, warmwell is now available in its "Lite" form as a blog. (Click on picture above) The existing website will continue as it is for a while but the posts that might usefully reach a wider audience (easier to read, more pictures and all in glorious technicolour) will go on the www.warmwell.blogspot.com pages.

Oct 7 2007 ~ Counting the cost

    With IP6, IP7 and IP8 indicating disease newly caught, it is perhaps a little surprising to hear such bland assurances from the Landeg camp that all is now probably over. They may be right. We all hope so. According to the NFU's Anthony Gibson, since August,
      "...we think the total cost to the farming industry is around 250 million pounds in terms of lost exports and lower meat prices."

    Quite apart from all the scurrying work of SVS (Animal Health) vets and surveillance, the vaccinating teams have been kept on a fruitless standby in order to fulfil the terms of the government's own requirement in the Animal Health Act to be seen to be "considering vaccination".
    As for the wasted animals; the official total in slaughtered animals - pedigree cattle, calves, sheep, pigs and one lone goat - is now over 1800. These figures include over 800 pigs - all of which tested negative. The cost in human stress and anxiety can hardly be measured - but some small indication comes from the account written by Rachel Archer from her farm near Maidenhead and published in Farmers Weekly. At one point she says
      "Word is that the cattle that were culled on Friday (i.e.Sept 21) were given the all clear by DEFRA just two days previously. Also, because this is a laboratory strain of the virus, they say it is not behaving like the 2001 outbreak"
    One of the features of this 1967 virus is the very mildness of its symptoms. Not unnaturally is it hard to detect. It affects the animals only slightly. They recover fast and from then on the miracle of the immune system, shared by all mammals, ensures that they cannot get reinfected by that strain. It is these animals, recovered and invulnerable, that have to be tracked down and slaughtered, along with their healthy fellows and any so-called "dangerous contacts" so that the UK may retain its coveted "FMD free" status. The other victims, never mentioned, are the several thousand animals, many of them exported for breeding, that were trapped in transit on the occasions in August and in September that FMD was discovered. They too were summarily killed.

Oct 7 2007 ~ "information on the DEFRA web site is no good to those of us farming within the control zones"

    Mrs Archer's account ( Farmers Weekly) mentions a fact that will resonate in the memories of all who suffered in 2001 where she has to
      ".. speak to another friend within the Protection Zone. This is the only way to find out what is really going on, the information on the DEFRA web site is no good to those of us farming within the control zones."
    Perhaps the saddest of all is the realisation at the end of her account that while her own farm seems miraculously to be safe, that of her friends Nigel and Sally was to be sacrificed:
      "Their youngstock on two units are being culled as a firebreak. Even though they have all been tested this week and are clean. As we end the call my eyes are full of tears. Why didn't DEFRA stamp on this outbreak two weeks ago?"
    Or, as we would say, why was the escape not contained 60 days ago when we had knowledge of the strain, the supply of appropriate vaccine and the ability to stop the spread. The phrase "Protection Zone" would then have had some meaning.

Oct 6 2007 ~ "When epidemiologists are wheeled out of IAH and refuse to acknowledge the usefulness of vaccination against FMD I am still surprised, though I should not be.."

    Ruth Watkins, the virologist who, like so many of us, has been watching the progress of the foot and mouth outbreak with such pain, says in this email today that a very useful web site contains a slide showing the timeline of the first 7 IPs, (slide number 12)
      " If an epidemiologist looked at it, it should strike him that if we had vaccinated immediately upon finding the IP 3 at Egham (having the vaccinators on standby and some 300,000 doses of vaccine ready) infection at IP 7 and IP 8 could have been prevented."
    She adds that it seems as though the effect of DEFRA's policy on farming has been disproportionate even if tourism has not been quite as badly hit as in 2001. She feels that "DEFRA employees haven't read the reports following the 2001 outbreak and still think of "costs" as being those that DEFRA would shell out to put vaccinator teams on standby and doses of vaccine at the ready - ie internal costs." Since FMD is not endemic in Western Europe, routine vaccination is not therefore necessary - which is why there are the banks of vaccine to all serotypes of FMD kept at the ready to use for emergency vaccination to control an incursion, or escape from a laboratory.

Oct 6 2007 ~" the option remains for imports from Latin-America to offset declines in local production"

    The Herald (Scotland) reports that "the Northern Ireland Red Meat Industry Task Force, established to develop a five-to-10-year strategy for the beef and sheepmeat industry, has concluded that suckler-origin beef and hill sheep have no future," adding that "Such conclusions are just as relevant to Scottish producers and will set alarm bells ringing in an industry already in crisis from the foot-and-mouth and blue tongue outbreaks."
    The notion that food imports from South America will fill the vacuum left by the demise of livestock farming forgets that accelerating global problems call into question all the old certainties about cheap transport and movements of food.
    The revelation in 2005 that a top Defra adviser had spoken witheringly of Britain's being in a "post agricultural era" (certainly, current animal disease policies would seem to reflect this view) led warmwell to quote the wise words of James Lovelock:
      "our nation is now so urbanised....we are dependent on the trading world for sustenance; ...we could grow enough to feed ourselves on the diet of the Second World War, but the notion that there is land to spare to grow biofuels, or be the site of wind farms, is ludicrous."
    In his "The Revenge of Gaia" Lovelock quietly argues that "We have to keep in mind the awesome pace of change and realise how little time is left to act, and then each community and nation must find the best use of the resources they have to sustain civilisation for as long as they can."

Oct 5 2007 ~DEFRA " is acting against the interests of the British people"

    DEFRA is working against the national interest and needs to go, argues FW columnist David Richardson in the 5 Oct issue of the Farmers Weekly magazine "Isn't it time for DEFRA to be humanely slaughtered and incinerated to stop it spreading yet more catastrophe's across UK agriculture?" he asked in his blog. "Virtually everything it has touched since it came into being five years ago it has messed up...." Reader reactions may be posted up beneath his "Final Solution" blog.
    Latest news from DEFRA is that you can get the latest news from DEFRA by simply dialling 0844 884 4600 Calls cost 5p a minute. It is "a recorded information line for the farming community to use in disease outbreaks..."

Oct 5 2007 ~ NFU's vaccination Q and A still quoting David King..

    Among the fallacies on NFU's vaccination statement we read :
    • "FMD vaccines are live- so there is always a risk of a vaccine actually causing disease." No! The modern approved FMD vaccines do not contain "live" virus and most certainly cannot cause disease.
    • "There are many different strains of FMD virus, and a specific vaccine is required for each strain" - ideally yes, but even DEFRA (pdf) says "... the new strain of FMDV that had been discovered in Egypt....showed that despite the poor predicted match between this A strain and the new Egypt virus, the A vaccine could provide useful cross-protection provided that a very potent vaccine was used.. The new strain of serotype A ....seemed to be controlled by use of an A22 Iraq vaccine." However, in Surrey we knew the exact strain and had access to an exact match - hardly surprisingly...
    • "FMD can be controlled and eradicated relatively quickly by culling and bio-security measures alone" Hardly. In this outbreak we knew the source, the strain and the area of immediate spread - but here we are two months later with apparently new live disease infection at IP8 at least thirty miles away.
    • "FMD... cannot live for long periods outside a host. It is relatively easy to kill the virus and its spread can be prevented or reduced by strict bio-security". The frantic farmers near Egham are discovering that it is even more "relatively easy" to kill their livestock on mere suspicion.
    • The NFU does not oppose vaccination for FMD: we agree that it should be available as part of the control strategy and would support its use, if this is what veterinary and scientific advice recommended Alas then, that the veterinary and scientific advice that has been recommending its use all along has been sidelined by such as Fred Landeg, Debby Reynolds and the ever watchful Chief Scientific Advisor.
    • We opposed vaccination in the very widespread 2001 outbreak because no one could demonstrate that vaccination would bring the disease under control more quickly or that fewer animals would be culled as a result (this view was subsequently endorsed by the Government Chief Scientist). On the contrary, there was the perfect example of Uruguay and the expert advice of international experts in the field.
    Unfortunately, Sir David King, a chemist, is not allowing his own serious lack of FMD expertise to hinder him from using his very powerful position to dominate the decision making process for the worse in 2007 just as he did in 2001.

October 5th ~ Sauce for both goose and gander

    The statement on the NFU's vaccination statement that " It takes longer to remove trade restrictions in live animals from a country or zone that has used vaccination against FMD. In the case of BTV the vaccine that is being developed would allow you to distinguish between an animal that had been vaccinated and one exposed to the virus." is curiously back to front and the vital phrase in the case of BTV vaccine is "being developed". The NFU wants vaccine for Bluetongue because culling doesn't help and meat exports are not normally restricted. They do not want vaccine for FMD - not unnaturally - because trade suffers an extra three month ban - (a ban that is irrational and ought to be changed). The problem here for the NFU is that differentiating NSP tests for FMD vaccine are firmly established ( Uruguay used one of them (the Panaftosa test) to demonstrate freedom of FMD infection with vaccination which was internationally accepted in 2001) while DIVA for bluetongue is not - it is still being developed.
    Paul van Aarle of Intervet International wrote about the FMD test,"the main characteristics of Chekit-FMD-3ABC:
    • The test is serotype aspecific.
    • Antibodies against 3ABC will be demonstrated as from 10-14 days after infection.
    • The test does not contain any infectious material and can be run in every laboratory, which is equipped for ELISA.
    • The test provides results within hours.

Oct 5 2007 ~ Two long months ago Chris Huhne MP said:

    "The Government deserves congratulation for learning the lessons of its shambolic response to the devastating 2001 crisis by stopping all animal movements and preparing for vaccination of surrounding herds as soon as the virus is identified.
    A clear lesson of the last outbreak was the need for speedy vaccination, so the isolation of the virus and a potential matching with banks of vaccine will be key.
    The other priority has to be to keep rural communities informed as this is a time of high anxiety not just among farmers but also for those involved in rural tourism who were hard hit by an entirely unjustified wave of cancellations last time." Source
    Has much been heard from Opposition parties since?

Oct 5 2007 ~ "Gordon Brown is anxious that the electorate should think that FMD is an issue approaching history."

    The Scotsman today points out that lambs are now starving in the fields. The relaxation of restrictions on October 12 will come too late and not go far enough. ".... few farmers will be able to meet the strict criteria on movements which threaten to lock up their businesses. The public perception and reality down on the farm are miles apart."
    Dan Buglass says a proposal, to be discussed in Brussels later today, may allow for compensation following the killing and disposal of the now excess sheep, "but the cost will have to be picked up by the UK government."
    He adds, "The hint of an impending general election is in the air, but the Prime Minister is keen to avoid a repeat of the scenario of 2001..." The public at large does not fully comprehend that small unwanted lambs are dying and bull calves are being born and then shot - all because of a disaster not of the farmers' making. The animal loving public would be horrified - but as we have seen there is a deafening silence in most of the press about the handling of foot and mouth - and yet another anodyne "Review" is about to take place.

Oct 5 2007 ~ "Dr Iain Anderson has been asked by the Government to chair a review of the Government's reaction to the 2007 Foot and Mouth Disease Outbreak" DEFRA

    In 2002, in our own interview by the Anderson inquiry, we found that concerns about emergency vaccination and rapid on-farm tests were somewhat impatiently swept aside. Nor did Dr Anderson wish to hear of Dr David Shannon's opinion of the "scientific group" brought in by Professor David King. Other participants in Dr Anderson's in camera proceedings, in particular, the National Foot and Mouth Group
      " felt completely disillusioned and let down by the Lessons Learned Inquiry and its modus operandi." (more)
    How far the recommendations of the various post 2001 inquiries have been met can be considered here. ( If one thinks "Good heavens...precious few", other more profound questions may occur.)
    Now, Dr Anderson (not to be confused with the Roy Anderson of 2001 who has since moved dizzyingly onwards and upwards) is to perform his service again and "comments about the outbreak and its handling are invited by 16 November 2007." Since the most recent infected premises, IP8, shows that virus is still very much on the loose as active disease able to infect animals now, a retrospective at this stage might be thought a trifle premature.

Oct 5 2007 ~ "Relatively small special-interest groups (parts of the meat-producing farming sector and the food trade) seem to have had an undue influence over decisions"

    The Temporary Committee of the EU, while it may have been set up as a damage limitation exercise in 2001, soon found itself caught up in human experience that defied being airbrushed out. The MEPs under the guidance of Caroline Lucas which enabled them to sidestep official arrangements for them to meet only approved "small special-interest groups", were sometimes moved to tears by the accounts told with such sadness and dignity as here at Knowstone. Their conclusion? "Emergency vaccination with the aim of allowing animals to live for normal further use should no longer be regarded only as a last resort for controlling FMD but must be considered as a first-choice option from the outset when an outbreak occurs."
    Of particular relevance today is paragraph 34 of that EU Committee's final report into the 2001 outbreak
      "..... some farmers' opposition to vaccinations was evidently due to the mistaken belief that there was no EU compensation available for the possible loss of value of vaccinated animals. Relatively small special-interest groups (parts of the meat-producing farming sector and the food trade) seem to have had an undue influence over decisions ...."

Oct 4 2007 ~ The need for an independent Expert Group

    Once again we must return to this. If - as the EU Directive decrees -there were an advisory Expert Group composed of epidemiologists, veterinary scientists and virologists " in a balanced way, to maintain expertise in order to assist the competent authority in ensuring preparedness against an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease" it is unlikely that we should have reached this grim position. Yet, although we are told there is such a group, we cannot track down its membership - nor subsequently whether those members are really independent of DEFRA. Can anyone help here?
    UPDATE We are grateful to the kind reader who sent this link. See also below

Oct 4 2007 ~ IP8 - 95 cattle, 16 sheep and 1 goat - and four more herds killed too

    IP8 had 95 cattle, 16 sheep and 1 goat. We learned that FMD was detected in four animals (although now it looks as though it was only one) but the lesions were considered to be only 2 days old. There were no signs of old antibodies or active virus in the corpses of the others nor in those premises killed as so-called "dangerous contacts".
    UPDATE From www.oie.int/wahid-prod "Holding comprising four premises - only one animal at one premises was affected according to preliminary laboratory results, animals at all four premises were stamped out for disease control purposes." ie 135cows and 16 sheep The goat is not mentioned by Dr Reynolds.
    Knowledge that the lesions tested in IP8 proved to be the result of fresh infection must raise very serious questions about spread.
    In the continuing absence of ring vaccination we can gloomily forecast further panicky killing without benefit of testing first.
    All who have studied the question know that
    • the technology to test accurately and rapidly on-site exists and works see here
    • modern potent vaccines give solid protection after one injection for emergency vaccination (see here)
    • No field work has EVER shown spread from vaccinated animals
    As for vaccine "masking disease" this fallacy needs to be urgently and publicly investigated - not reported in the press as fact. Animals are vaccinated in herds and from the outside inwards. Even if vaccination came too late to prevent infection in the cases nearest the epicentre, there would be no subsequent spread. To hear ignorance among those directing the killing policy is heartbreaking in the extreme and one cannot but wonder what on earth is going on. Some have even suggested deliberate land clearance. The alternative seems to be dithering ignorance and incompetence on a tragic scale.

Oct 4 2007 ~ "the chief vet believes it to be the case and he has a responsibility to report her views"

    Jonathan Miller's blog today quotes Charles Clover of the Telegraph, who - as Jonathan Miller says - "has been gracious enough to reply to my rant in his general direction as follows. He deserves credit for doing so as I have been highly provocative."
    The bone of contention was the continuing assertion that "FMD vaccine masks disease" - a view expressed, it now seems, by the Chief Vet, Debby Reynolds. Mr Clover says that "You may choose to ignore the chief vet's opinion. I as a reporter can't." Readers with field experience or those who have read widely on the subject, may like to comment in the feed-back section below Mr Miller's latest piece and to suggest tactfully whether or not they think Dr Reynolds may be mistaken in her view. ( It is true that Mr Clover has demonstrated balance. On September 15th he wrote an OpEd, "If there is another case of the disease, it is time to think of vaccinating in a ring around the outbreak" - That was three weeks ago - and now we have evidence of new disease at IP8)

Oct 3 2007 ~ "The decision would be adopted formally from October 12 but would enter into force only if there were no more outbreaks outside the affected area, the Commission said..." (Reuters)

    "The proposal to amend the foot and mouth restrictions for certain parts of Great Britain will be finally adopted only if there are no further outbreaks outside a 200km area around the surveillance zone in Surrey, and under strict conditions"
    Unfortunately "no more outbreaks outside the affected area" is looking a little unlikely since, without the confidence that ring vaccination would have brought, killing animals is the only way to attempt to kill the virus. The lesions on the cattle at "Infected Premises number 8" at Ankerdyke Farm, Wraysbury were only three-days old - putting paid to any idea that traces of the virus around Egham are the dying embers of disease that somehow got there from Pirbright. 3 day old lesions indicate active virus, not antibodies.
    This virus is still very much on the move.
    The pressure on DEFRA must be intense now to slaughter anything even remotely suspicious - and to do so fast and without bothering too much about test results - and this will be adding to the dread in the so ironically named "Protection" zone. An example of such dread comes from today's emails
      "If my beautiful pedigree Jersey herd is taken out because of the incompetence, ignorance and sheer bloody mindedness of DEFRA, the EU and that ridiculous Dr.Reynolds then they had better beware..."
    As a ProMed moderator said on Oct 1st "Clearly, this outbreak is threatening to spread, and it is difficult to be confident that it will not spread extensively."

Oct 3 2007 ~ "No, we can do better than that"

    Virologist Dr Colin Fink replies to the paragraph below about today's edition of Farming Today. Extract from email:
      "The epidemiologist's views about vaccine do not accord with my own. If you ring vaccinate, of course new animals could not be moved into the ring unless also vaccinated, for safety reasons concerning vaccination being complete. There would have to be a pause whilst the vaccine took effect and was completed ....newer vaccines would create an unsusceptible population and the infection would simply melt away. ..... I do not share the concern about 'accidents with vaccine' and the contention that some of the vaccine is actually live virus, surely can be discounted.....
      The question of 'expense' has several interpretations: How do you put a price on a family's generations of work in breeding stock or the loss for marginal farmers and the burden for all of us of their lives ruined..."
    Dr Fink concludes with a reference to what he feels is "the medieval approach from DEFRA " and says, "No, we can do better than that."
    On the Farming Today website itself, it is good to see Lawrence Wright's comment about ring vaccination and the "ridiculous and outdated trade penalty on the use of vaccination" He says "...It would also allow movement rules for animals outside the area of the infection to be relaxed with confidence. The NFU should be joining the voices asking for a change.."

Oct 3 2007 ~ Changes to meat and meat products export rules have been agreed in Brussels today

    The EU's Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health have today agreed a regionalised approach which frees up trade from some parts of Great Britain. This applies to meat and meat products from FMD susceptible species to other EU Member States. DEFRA says "changes are expected to come into effect on 12th October, subject to there being no change to the current disease situation."
    Reuters says, "......EU veterinary experts backed a decision that "the whole of Great Britain would remain a high-risk area with regard to the movement restrictions for susceptible animals and untreated products"... The decision would be adopted formally from October 12 but would enter into force only if there were no more outbreaks outside the affected area, the Commission said..."

Oct 3 2007 ~ Haywards Heath negative

Oct 3 2007 ~ A case of Chinese Whispers?

    One of the reactions to Paul Sutmoller's letter in yesterday's Telegraph brought to warmwell's attention was a message containing the extraordinary idea that since Dr Sutmoller had told the Royal Society that "vaccinated meat could not be eaten" had he now changed his mind?
    Hardly surprisingly, this suggestion totally baffled Dr Sutmoller until he recalled one slide of a presentation (a html version is on warmwell ) that gave examples of the flawed arguments used by the anti-vaccinators and the final one - considered utterly ridiculous - was "One cannot eat meat from vaccinated animal" All the other Powerpoint slides made his own view crystal clear - but that one sentence was cherry-picked by someone who was clearly not paying attention to the commentary. It would be as funny as "Send three and fourpence, we are going to a dance" if it were not so serious and, five years later, still proving so destructive.

October 3 2007 ~ One of the most monstrous pieces of misinformation about vaccination

    As Dr Sutmoller and the virologists have always said, and as warmwell has been pointing out on the vaccination pages
    • One of the most monstrous pieces of misinformation about vaccination - still going unchallenged and perhaps even encouraged - is that eating vaccinated meat somehow involves 'chemicals'. The truth is that vaccinated meat has not one trace of "vaccine" in it.
    • The immune system, having responded to the jab, destroys the natural viral protein by biodegrading it - it can be likened to a wasp sting - the substance injected is biodegradable, indeed it is biodegraded by the very cells that form the immune (antibody) response
    • We spend all our lives being exposed to proteins and infections and carry many, even in our clean modern world, all our lives - but we can protect ourselves from many pathogens that would otherwise lead to painful illness and death. Vaccination for us is one of the blessings of being in the civilised world. Would we deny vaccination to our children and pets?
    The logical conclusion of rejection of vaccination is the assumption that FMD infection is preferable. Ignorance about vaccination and the safety of vaccinated meat for human consumption is precisely the sort of thing that allows the EU trade rules to persist. It was very cheering to find Anthony Gibson saying that the only argument against emergency vaccination now is indeed that the period before which export trade can be resumed is twice as long if vaccination is used. We wholly agree. It is this that Dr Sutmoller and others are working so hard to get changed in Europe. Even warmwell will be in Brussels this month. Support from the vets, scientists and unions is always going to be very much appreciated.

Oct 3 2007 ~ "best to wait and see"? No. It is not - but compliant interviewer allows this to pass unchallenged

    The view of Nick Taylor from Reading University, given on Farming Today without the balance of other views, was that ring vaccination - in, for example, a 10km ring - would still require movement restrictions and "surveillance and culling where disease was found". The gain would be that there would be no more outbreaks: but "we might not get any more outbreaks anyway and the ring might not necessarily work"
    It is really rather scandalous that the BBC cannot find the experts whose experience and understanding would make things clearer and more accurate for the farmers who listen to this programme.
    Lawrence Wright, whose emails are clear and far sighted, comments, "...assumptions and interpretations were not challenged. For example, would it really be more expensive to vaccinate all stock in a 10km ring than to kill so many uninfected animals on contiguous farms? The conclusion (given later in the programme) that changing the timescale for the resumption of trading after eradication of FMD by vaccination would mean permanent use of vaccination throughout the EU seemed perverse in the extreme - but the compliant interviewer did nothing to pick this up." Read email

Oct 3 2007 ~ "At last, the UK government has woken up to the haulage problems we've been facing."

    Andy Robertson, chief executive of the Scottish National Farmers Union is quoted in the Scotsman about the news that the rules on drivers' hours have been relaxed.
      "It really shouldn't have taken this long for the Department for Transport to address this issue. The problems in August were bad, but the re-emergence of disease has hit the industry at the worst possible time. With sales now being organised over a much shorter period, there was a real danger that animals were going to be stranded all over the country, with huge welfare implications. This move doesn't mean that the haulage capacity problems will disappear completely, but at least drivers can now operate with some much needed flexibility."

Oct 2 2007 ~ Jamie Oliver has called on shoppers to buy British lamb

    www.thisisnorthscotland.co.uksays, "... The celebrity chef urged consumers to use their spending power to back British farmers. "Now is the time for a call to action to help our British farmers. It's been a tough year for them and for many it's just getting worse," he said. "I'd like to encourage everyone to buy more British lamb, at least for the next few weeks."

Oct 2 2007 ~ Suspected case outside the "Protection Zone"

    The erroneously named "protection" zone has been expanding to fit the measures of kill first and check afterwards - but there is today a new suspected case on the Sussex border near Haywards Heath If this is confirmed we are looking at a whole new phase of DEFRA's present policy. An emailer calls it "a kind of murderous and bloody Blind Man's Buff played with live cattle " - and it is hard, after two months, to disagree with such a description.

Oct 2 2007 ~ Dr Sutmoller puts right some misconceptions

    A letter in today's Telegraph from Paul Sutmoller whose field experience with foot and mouth vaccines is probably second to none, addresses some wrong thinking about emergency vaccination. Extract:
      "Sir - Richard Lutwyche, Secretary of the British Saddleback Breeders' Club, when questioning foot and mouth vaccination (Letters, September 15), wrote: "The need to vaccinate every foot and mouth vaccination (Letters, September 15), wrote: "The need to vaccinate every 16 weeks would be arduous and questionable in terms of animal welfare." His worry is understandable, but unfounded.
      There is a proven, potent FMD vaccine available, and one vaccination will provide enough protection to halt an FMD epidemic.....About a week after the vaccination of animals at risk, the outbreak should come to a halt ....the countdown to regain the FMD-free status and the gradual lifting of animal movement restrictions can start." Read in full
    Dr Sutmoller is one of those toiling against the odds towards getting the prejudice against vaccination at EU level changed. We are getting ever more troubled to read, as here, "... pro-vaccination campaigners, while having a very robust scientific case, are simply ignoring the non-scientific. political effects of their arguments." No. Precisely because the non-scientific, political effects of the present policy are so patently destructive to the livelihoods of the very farmers they support, those who, like Dr Sutmoller, are fighting DEFRA's wait and kill policy, are fighting to change the rules for the future. The meat exporters are worried but many still fail to point out there is already a derogation for vaccinated meat for the home market. The psychosocial distress of two months of prolonged, panicky killing affects whole rural communities - and, as the ProMed moderator said yesterday, perhaps even the whole nation.

October 2 2007 ~ ProMed "...One wonders whether standing down the vaccination teams might be a bit premature.."

    "......it appears as if large areas of the Essex, Kent and other areas in the eastern part of the country will be removed from the FMD Risk Area. While progress is always appreciated, the decision described in the news release appears to indicate that this decision is based on last week's epidemiology report and assessment of risk. However, we have had a temporary Control Zone announced today [1 Oct 2007] and a new infected premise -- the 8th location -- reported yesterday. One wonders whether standing down the vaccination teams might be a bit premature, and the 5 day time gap, if vaccination were adopted, would be costly. Clearly, this outbreak is threatening to spread, and it is difficult to be confident that it will not spread extensively. On the other hand, there may be few or no more infected premises; only time will tell. - Mod.PC] See ProMed mail

October 2 2007 ~ What the public is not being told

    The public at large, who may share some of the deep unease about DEFRA's handling of foot and mouth in spite of the blandness of media reporting, are not being told
    • Whether the animals being killed in their hundreds were recovered animals, doomed by the antibodies that had made them well - or
    • victims of active disease - in which case the assurances given of low risk look absurd
    • On what grounds contiguous premises THREE kilometres away are being taken out. Live virus detected? Old lesions? The direction of the wind? A feeling in Fred Landeg's water?
    • Why the Protection zone is ballooning ever outwards. Is it in order for discovered disease to remain "in the Protection Zone"?
    • What the "tests" have actually shown and whether any kind of appropriate, professional testing at all is happening outside the PZ
    • on what scientific grounds the vaccination teams are constantly being told to stand up, sit down, keep moving and stand by.
    There is little comfort in knowing that some pretty forensic questions are soon going to be asked. In the meantime, we soldier on, sick at heart, all too aware that those who resent any questioning of their actions have no adequate answers to give.

October 2 2007 ~ " it's no use having clever biosecurity precautions, if desperate folks facing ruin are going to break the rules"

    "Defra and EU foot and mouth controls do seem to waste a lot of healthy animals and edible meat...." remarks Michael Meredith drily. The vet and commentator from pighealth.com sends us some succinct words of advice for DEFRA. (Emails page) " National movement bans must be absolutely kept to a minimum and the economic health of the industry supported....I can see the point in imposing a widespread movement ban for the first 48 hours after a FMD outbreak, but after that control measures surely need to be much more focussed i.e. based on tracings and risk assessments - unless of course the virus is clearly going wildly out of control..." read in full.

October 1 2007 ~ Relaxation of restrictions for some - and vaccination teams stood down yet again

    DEFRA has announced that Kent, Essex, East Sussex, Southend, Thurrock, Medway, Brighton and Hove will be removed from the foot and mouth disease (FMD) risk area. From midnight on Monday (1 October) these counties will fall within the FMD Low Risk Area and be subject to the movement controls that apply in this area. See Farmers Weekly The same report says that because the latest epidemiology report published last week "concludes that the risk of disease spread outside of the Surrey Protection and Surveillance Zones is very low" and "based on the overall assessment of risk", DEFRA is today standing down vaccination teams from their current level of alert. "Teams could be remobilised again in five days, if needed."

Oct 1 2007 ~ Refreshing to hear Anthony Gibson - remembered as one of the only honest voices to be heard from the NFU in 2001 - explain to Mark Holdstock..

    .. on Farming Today that the real reason why the NFU opposes use of vaccination to control FMD is indeed that the period before which export trade can be resumed is twice as long if vaccination is used.
    Mark Holdstock invited listeners to give their views on whether or not vaccination should be used for both FMD and Bluetongue. Listeners can listen again to the programme and give their views. Please, please do. There is some distressing ignorance out there.

Oct 1 2007 ~ A loud and shameful Silence

    An excellent letter in the emails section asks, "Why are UK vets so reluctant to mention FMD and why is the outbreak almost ignored in the veterinary press? Their counterparts on the continent (here) seem very ready to have EU legislation changed ...Our once proud nation will soon be the 'laughing stock' of the civilised world..."
    In 2001 there was a real fear among vets that the government could make things very difficult for the Veterinary authorities. Are others finally waking up to the facts so well outlined by Bob Michell, former President of the RCVS, in the Veterinary Times last year?
      Extract: ".......Whatever the political motivation, this was enacted in the name of veterinary disease control. It was, therefore, done inescapably, in my name and, if you graduated before 2001, in yours. Do you feel proud of that among the cocktails, in the pub, on the dinner party circuit, over coffee cups at a scientific gathering? Or do you feel relieved that at least, in the interim, our governing body has done ... well, what exactly, about it? I seem to remember that we “Promise above all that ... my constant endeavour will be to ensure the welfare of the animals committed to my care.“ The italics, as well as the quotation, come from the RCVS Guide to Professional Conduct, on the first page about the responsibilities of a veterinary surgeon..." Read in full
    While the vets and the RSPCA and all the other bodies we once thought were able to rise above politics remain enmeshed in it, the public as a whole, although vaguely perturbed, are not going to raise an outcry at the unnecessary horrors being enacted in Surrey.

Monday 1st October ~ As UK farmers face ruin, the Palace requests no special treatment

    The Times, however, says
      " a number of local veterinary surgeons believe that the Queen should now take a stance and insist on the use of vaccination."
    It is getting almost too painful to continue warmwell. Charting the progress of a national scandal and catastrophe when so many remain silent is a thankless task. The unions bemoan the loss of export markets while the many, many farmers who do not engage in live exports, watch the danger of FMD creep ever closer (see new map) and dread the message from the Ministry they call DEATHRA that they are coming to inspect. They are not allowed by law to protect their animals and - while facing ruin imposed by a mad, bad system - take comfort only in the misinformation they have been fed for years; that vaccination somehow would be worse.
    When, as it must be, vaccination for FMD is both encouraged and favoured in the EU we are suddenly going to find an abrupt change of opinion among the powerful. They are going to announce that high potency vaccines give solid protection and that the NSP tests, differentiating vaccinated from infected animals, work - a Damascus Road moment.

Monday 1st October ~ It was wrong to say no lessons were learned: two lessons were indeed learned by DEFRA since the last carnage.

    The law was changed retrospectively to legalise the illegal culls of 2001 - and those irritating protests were made a criminal offence. In spite of a most gallant effort in the House of Lords, the Bill was eventually passed.
    1. The 2002 Animal Health Act now makes it legal for the government to slaughter in the name of "animal health" any animal it chooses
    2. and that law also makes it illegal for anyone to protest
    However, we'd remind Mr Benn, Dr Reynolds and Mr Landeg of these words:
      "Any decision to use the wider powers of slaughter would be taken in the light of an overall assessment of the risks, costs and benefits in a given situation. This could include not only risks of transmission but also social and economic risks that would arise if effective and timely action were not taken."
    This comes from a page that no longer loads from DEFRA's website - but is cached here. It contains some inconvenient provisos about the policy we are now witnessing.

Sunday September 30 2007 ~ NINE contiguous farms culled - an unholy, miserable, and unnecessary mess

    According to Jonathan Long, FW Livestock Editor on the FW forum
      "I'm told that nine contiguous farms were culled today, as sign of the seriousness of the situation evolving in the PZ as the disease continues to spring up.
      Meanwhile, I believe a meeting is underway this evening to establish the protocol for a welfare cull scheme for south east England.....pitiful payments will do little to help the confidence of an industry rapidly descending into crisis."
    Or rather, descending into total chaotic misery because our animal disease policy has been allowed to stay in the wrong hands and is stuck in the 17th century The "seriousness of the situation" is not this finding of cases. It is the panicky killing spree and the unholy, miserable mess that DEFRA made when it fudged vaccination. Not one single lesson learned since 2001 - and the sufferers are, as usual, the patient and the innocent.
    UPDATE A posting on the Farming Weekly forum
      "That was my husbands farm. And brother-in-laws.(No. 8......Ankerwyke) I also had my "pet" sheep taken out (dangerous contacts.... But all were negative) How do I feel ?......... Who cares? I'm absolutely devastated. I was still bottle feeding 2 lambs. I reared and bred them all.."

Sunday September 30 2007 ~ FMD confirmed at slaughter on suspicion site

    So now we have the 8th Infected Premises - but this means that FOUR more contiguous premises near Wraysbury will be culled. "..veterinary experts have concluded that a number of cattle on four (4) premises in the vicinity of IP8 have been exposed to infection of FMD to such a degree that they are likely to develop disease.."
    And testing? It would seem that this is not going to be done before killing these neighbouring cows.
      . "In keeping with our strategy to stamp out FMD, these cattle and any other susceptible livestock on these four premises will therefore be humanely culled" DEFRA page
    The "humane" aspect of culling has yet to be described. On-site RT-PCR would have confirmed very quickly on the farm itself if they had been infected or not - but DEFRA has determinedly turned away from this technology since 2001, preferring to transfer samples and do the tests in the lab. The calm and so reasonable language is that of continuing nightmare - a nightmare that could have been halted in its tracks in the first week of August. But the media seem not to be asking any difficult questions at all.

Sunday September 30 2007 ~ Merial facilities were "state of the art" and Spratt did not blame Merial

    The Sunday Times today quotes the contracted engineer who warned managers at the IAH and BBSRC and telephoned DEFRA of his concerns about the state of the pipes at the Pirbright site. The Sunday Times goes on to say
      "Spratt's report said the virus in the outbreak most likely came from Merial, a company making vaccines on a site next to the Pirbright laboratory"
    This is quite untrue and it is an astonishing sentence to read.
    Genetic sequencing was unable to determine which part of Pirbright the virus came from and both reports say so. Merial's biosecurity was never in doubt when the two official reports were published. While the Spratt report referred to the 'poor state' of the IAH facilities, it said that the Merial facilities were "state of the art" (para13) The HSE report describing the Merial facility as "modern with a high degree of engineering controls", said
      "... the required SAPO Level 4 standards are achieved and regularly monitored."
    Of the possible virus leak via the effluent drainage system, we read
      "this act of discharge was permitted by Defra, hence we conclude there was no breach of biosecurity at this juncture by Merial."
    While it would be financially convenient for the government if Merial could be shown to be to blame, it seems that responsibility lies elsewhere.
    It is a worrying thought that the vaccine production at Merial for both FMD and the vitally important BTV-8 could be being held up in order to imply a lack of safety at the Merial facilities that does not in fact exist.
    (We see that BBSRC has issued a statement on the ST article.)

Sunday 30 September 2007~ Killing Trade

    So often, in all the repetitions about foot and mouth restrictions, foot and mouth spread, foot and mouth vigilance, blame for foot and mouth, one important underlying fact is very often forgotten by journalists and is consequently not appreciated by the public at large. But it too needs to be repeated. It is that the last hurdle against vaccination is simply the extended trade restriction after emergency vaccination.
    On September 14th, the German Veterinary Association (BTK) issued a press release urging the German Government to stage a protest against such trade restrictions , adding that, ".. intracommunity as well as global trade in vaccinated animals and their products, milk and meat should not be restricted."
    The justification that led to these restrictions was the old assumption that vaccinated animals could not be distinguished from infected animals. But, as we have explained, modern marker vaccines permit the distinction to be made. The German Farmers Union agrees. Dr. Helmut Born, its Secretary, is quoted in an article in the German paper "Die Welt" :
      "In the light of the recent outbreak of FMD in the UK the German Farmers Union demands vaccination of susceptible animals. In the long term the culling of healthy animals is not justifiable."
    DEFRA's plan to "Reduce the risk of spread through identifying and culling Infected Premises, Dangerous Contacts and slaughter on suspicion" has shown no signs of being successful after 60 long and miserable days. It is well overdue that the UK change its policy and the EU heed these calls for the rules discriminating against emergency ring vaccination to be reviewed.

29 September ~ Yet more slaughter of cattle "on suspicion"

    The DEFRA news says only " This follows clinical examination of animals on land in the existing Protection Zone as part of intensive surveillance in the area. Samples are being taken for laboratory testing. There is no timetable for when laboratory results from these premises will be received." This sounds very grim. Perhaps the penside "lateral testing devices" were used on the farm and found evidence of antigen indicating past disease. We are not told. We wait for results - but let no one ever be in any doubt about the distressing scenes that take place when a herd is killed in this way. Yet again, one can only repeat the dismay so many of us feel that emergency ring vaccination was not immediately applied in early August.

29 September ~ a 24-hour telephone service to be set up to keep farmers informed about both diseases.

    Gordon Brown has hinted at some kind of help - whether this is to be financial is not clear - but his words:
      "Hilary Benn will within the next few days consult with the farming industry all over the country. He will look at the financial consequences of what's been happening, he will look at what the European Commission is going to be able to do to help us"
    do suggest that he is hoping to be able to find some financial support from somewhere. He has also said a 24-hour telephone service would be set up to keep farmers informed about the fight against both diseases. We can find no reference anywhere to the actual number to ring and would appreciate any information about this. Press Association report has more detail on Mr Brown's words today.

29 September ~ "a scientifically unsound policy" and "the alienation of the industry as a whole"

    Dr Fink's letter in reply to Howard Dalton's points out that killing animals does certainly - when no animals remain standing - also kill the disease.
      Sir, Professor Howard Dalton, on behalf of Defra (letter, Sept 27), has made it clear that a slaughter policy to eliminate foot-and-mouth in the UK is their informed choice. Reductio ad absurdum it will inevitably work.
      He fails to acknowledge the loss of UK genetic stock adapted to an area often built up with many generations of both farmers and livestock and the alienation of the industry as a whole.
      It is a scientifically unsound policy and all the more remarkable to be supported by, as he states, the largest concentration of virologists in the Western world.
      DR COLIN G FINK, Micropathology Ltd, Coventry
    (Dr Fink's original letter to the Times on Tuesday may be read here, and another letter in eloquent support is that by Anne Lambourn raising again the question of the make-up of the so-called independent Expert Group
      ".....The critical question is this: what veterinary experts with field experience of foot-and-mouth disease control by vaccination currently serve on the expert group advising government? There is top quality advice available within the EU, as well as from US counterparts with expertise in the global FMD threat from bioterrorism, which Defra could draw on. As far as I am aware, these individuals have not been consulted...."
    The third letter, from Andrew Tyler, Director, Animal Aid is also worth reading in full - while one warmwell reader's response to Howard Dalton's reply is on the email page.)

September 29 ~ Reality of living in the "risk zone"

    The problem that only farmers can really fully appreciate is the tragedy being played out already when - as one farmer puts it for warmwell
      "I already sell around 20 lambs a week locally. My problem is that I have too many lambs that I cannot find grazing for - and rather than starve my breeding ewes the only option I have is to take out all the surplus lambs and hope that I have a flock left for next year.
      The situation is this - that we are in a FMD risk zone, so are not allowed to move from farm to farm. Now with Bluetongue many of our traditional winter grazing land is outside of the area and even when the restrictions on FMD are lifted we cannot go into these areas even for slaughter where the main large abattoirs are.
      Our sheep do not eat hard food and we only have very minimal supplies of hay and silage. We do not have the facilities to feed this number of animals and with the very low value of the sheep it would be economic suicide to try to feed all of them from now until next spring.
      However the situation may change if the bluetongue zone becomes larger and includes larger areas of Engand. We have to make decisions now as we will not be able to ever winter more than around 2,000 ewes on our main farms, at the moment we have just over 11,500 total head of sheep.."

September 29 ~ The nightmare sight of pyres of wasted light lambs from the hills of Britain is also looking more and more likely.

    Can nothing be done to offer real, practical support?
    One wonders if, in the carpeted offices of Page Street, there is anyone capable of offering any comfort in this dire situation. At the end of August the sum of 15 Million euros (10 million pounds) was earmarked by the French equivalent of Defra for the support of French farmers who have been hurt by bluetongue. See french press release
    Here in the UK, it is the Prince of Wales who has stepped up, yet again, to help farmers, donating £100,000 himself (matched by the Duke of Westminster) and approaching leading supermarkets and retailers who are all making donations too. The total raised, (see Press Association) will be given to farming charities.
    Had we vaccinated against FMD in August there would now be no "risk zone" Wth Bluetongue as well, the live export market is shot to pieces anyway. Will any journalist be pointing out this black irony?

29 September ~ Still in circulation - the idea that FMD vaccine "masks carriers of the disease"

    The much respected Charles Clover of the Telegraph, after expressing the hope that BTV vaccine will soon be available, then goes on to damn FMD vaccines. Instead of telling his readers that FMD vaccines are high potency, can show whether an animal has disease or has been vaccinated, and give solid protection even if only 70% of stock is vaccinated, he writes
      "...the problem there is with foot and mouth vaccine which is that it masks carriers of the disease"
    Ruth Watkins, the expert virologist who is also a livestock farmer, has addressed this misconception for anyone who cares to examine it critically and she is clear that a healthy animal once vaccinated,"... does not become an infectious carrier...." Dr Colin Fink's exasperated response below to the subject of the "carrier" theory is robust, while in the 2004 paper,Evidence that high potency foot-and-mouth disease vaccine inhibits local virus replication and prevents the 'carrier' state in sheep Barnett et al, Vaccine 22 (2004) 1221 - 1232 the conclusion is that
      "...all of the vaccinated sheep, regardless of antigen payload, were protected against clinical disease and development of viraemia. Virological and serological results confirmed that there had been no local virus replication in the oropharynx of sheep from the high potency vaccine group in contrast to moderate or substantial virus replication in the oropharynx of the low potency vaccinated or unvaccinated sheep respectively....."
    The high potency vaccines of today do not mask carriers of disease in real life situations. The NSP tests can differentiate between vaccinates and those animals infected and recovered. That there are still arguments against the scientific and veterinary good sense of vaccinating against FMD, when there is now so much evidence in the field and in the journals to support it, is odd. Perhaps this continuing assertion is so hard to eradicate because it masks carriers of serious and unresolved political questions from 2001.

Friday 28 September ~ The reappearance of FMD with the reimposition of the nationwide ban on animal movements has been an unmitigated disaster for the livestock industry, costing farmers an estimated £10m a day.

    Muckspreader< in Private Eye
      "......The sole cause of this massive financial loss has been the incompetence of Mr Brown's own government (compounded by its continuing refusal to allow the ring vaccination which could stop any spread of the disease dead in its tracks)."
    Read in full

Friday 28 September ~"no timeline on the resumption of exports"

    Farmers Guardian "The current measures are due to remain in place until October 15 but there will be a review before then to determine what action to take. I don't know when the review will be yet but there will be no lifting of restrictions until we are convinced that the UK has eradicated the disease."
    (The"foot and mouth risk areas" defined by DEFRA are now Essex, Kent, East and West Sussex, Hampshire, Surrey, Berkshire, Hertfordshire, Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Greater London.
    The low risk areas include the rest of England, Wales, and Scotland. Livestock can be taken to markets in the Low Risk Area only from 4 October.)

Friday 28 September ~ Fifty nine days later

    It is hard to see what lessons were learned from 2001. Given the always distressing situation when FMD strikes, here was the best possible scenario. Within a very short time indeed after August 4th, and thanks to the efforts of Pirbright staff, we had the exact strain of the virus identified, we had a perfect vaccine match to hand, we had the testing capabilities of a World Reference Laboratory within spitting distance. We also had, in addition to its endorsement of emergency vaccination, the Royal Society's follow-up report, five long years ago, voicing its concerns that progress still needed to be made by DEFRA in some vitally important areas, among which were:
    • "Further action to ensure that emergency vaccination is a viable option for pre-emptive action, including the validation of Non Structural Protein (NSP) tests "
      but the decision to implement emergency vaccination has been fudged again and again and some stakeholders' anti vaccination remarks show they have never heard of NSP tests
    • "The development of portable RT-PCR diagnostic equipment that can be used in the field and sensitive enough to detect virus in pre-clinical cases. (5)"
      but there is in the UK no portable RT-PCR diagnostic equipment available even after the 6 years in which it has been available elsewhere.
    • "The need to ensure that animal health research is given the support it requires" -
      but chronic underfunding led to the very escape of virus that started all this
    Even so, had we gone ahead and vaccinated in early August, a move now so solidly underpinned by science, the virus would have been stopped in its tracks - giving the UK the argument it needed to demand modernised regulations from the EU.
    Instead we followed a contingency plan by numbers. And here DEFRA still is, as week follows miserable week, still waiting and hoping and slaughtering. The CVO and DEFRA continue to repeat, to all except themselves, the increasingly impertinent sounding mantra about "vigilance".
    If those at the top of DEFRA can make such an almighty hash of the best FMD exercise ever, what hope for Britain's farms and animals?

September 27 2007 ~ DEFRA is to have a new Chief Scientific Advisor

    The Register reports that Howard Dalton will be replaced by Dr Robert Watson, a former aide to the White House on climate change. The Register quotes him: "I am keen to continue to build on the foundations laid by Sir Howard Dalton and his team in ensuring one of Defra's strengths is its focus on robust and quality science and evidence-based policy."
    To perceive at DEFRA much in the way of "robust and quality science and evidence-based policy" in the area of animal disease control may be thought a misapprehension somewhat elementary on the part of Dr Watson.
    When Howard Dalton is away from the controlling influence at the top of DEFRA he may perhaps find an opportunity to speak on the subject of animal health policies - just as we saw with the departure of Dr David Shannon from the same post. When he had retired as DEFRA's Chief Scientist, Dr Shannon made some genuinely robust and evidence-based remarks on the subject of those who took control of the 2001 handling of foot and mouth.
    Of those directing operations, he told theLessons Learned that there had been limited knowledge of agricultural systems and serology, and it contained no FMD experts from outside the UK. (As the virologist Dr Ruth Watkins wrote to the same inquiry "None of the vets whom I spoke to, particularly the senior vets, understood the implications of control by vaccination...") He also expressed great unease that Professor David King, during the foot and mouth outbreak, had "had enormous influence on policy without having formal responsibility for the consequences of its advice"
    How far things have changed since then is questionable since many of the key players then are still very much with us. Despotic, arrogant and rigid control seems alive and well - - and a shambles, in all senses of the word, is still the unfortunate result.

September 27 2007 ~ It seems that livestock markets will be allowed from next Thursday

September 27 ~ Blood tests from all 20 of the lambs with lesions have been taken. DEFRA had said results would be back late yesterday, however they are now expected this morning.

    ( This posting at 2.00 pm ) We read that Farmers Weekly has been talking to the Berkshire farmer at the centre of the new temporary control zone. On Tuesday he found symptoms of orf. ( Regular warmwell readers will remember with pain the number of sheep and their contiguous neighbours who were killed in 2001 because vets mistook orf for FMD)
    DEFRA vets agreed that it looked like orf but, on Wednesday morning, tests were taken anyway. An odd feature was that "20 lambs each had one small round lesion on the centre of the tongue towards the back, about 3-5mm in diameter, something that the DEFRA vet had not seen before." The farmer is quoted as saying:
      " What worries us is that this strain may not be showing the typical foot and mouth symptoms which were prevalent in the last outbreak due to it being a laboratory strain, so we have been told."
    And we remember too that this strain is not behaving quite as the classic 1967 strain did. In Surrey the virus seems to have infected many animals at once rather than, as in 1967, rippling slowly through the herd. However, near Maidenhead, none of the animals on farm,( 163 sheep and 29 head of pedigree British Charolais) is showing any of the clinical signs of foot and mouth. We wait for results
    UPDATE - negative " Initial tests for foot and mouth disease on animals at a Fifield farm have proved negative, the National Farmers' Union (NFU) has revealed. (sic) An NFU spokesman said despite the negative test a temporary control zone will not be lifted by Defra (Department for environment, food and rural affairs) until a second negative test comes back. The second results are expected tomorrow morning..." www.maidenhead-advertiser.co.uk.

September 27 ~ Vaccination production at a standstill

    It has been confirmed by Philip Connolly at Merial that vaccine production is still at a standstill in the UK and that "We need DEFRA permission before we can work with live FMD or BTV"
    With farmers in Northern Europe now desperate for vaccine, Bernard Vallatt approving its use and saying that failure to act could cause a "disaster for all European nations" and an EU Commission spokesman quoted as saying "There is, or will be, considerable demand for this vaccine. We will do all we can to speed up its approval .." one wonders how aware they are that BTV-8 (and FMD) vaccine production has been stymied in the UK. See Bluetongue page.

September 26 ~ "Redundancies at the Wildlife Administration Unit were "crazy" when the department was struggling to contain foot-and-mouth and bluetongue disease".

    FT tells us that compulsory redundancy notices have been issued to staff at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs - not at the top, alas. But there is now a real likelihood of a nationwide strike by civil servants in many sectors. ".....PCS, the largest civil service union, will on Friday launch a ballot of 270,000 members for strike action across 200 government departments and agencies in support of a series of disputes over pay and job cuts. Mark Serwotka, PCS general secretary, has called on other public sector unions, representing more than 1million local government, postal and prison workers in dispute over pay and job threats, to co-ordinate industrial action to cause maximum embarrassment to the government..."

September 26 2007 ~ How can we help our farmers? asked Alan Titchmarsh

    An emailer tells us that on the programme, Clarissa Dixon Wright
      "gave two answers; first get rid of this government and secondly get rid of section 36 of the Trades Description Act, which states that any product regardless of its country of origin can be labeled as produce of Britain as long as one process has been carried out in Britain - even if this process has only been to put the item in a poly bag. She suggested that every member of the public should be petitioning the authorities to remove said Section 36. Hopefully this is just the beginning of common sense starting to kick in."
    Here - www.writetothem.com - is that excellent website that allows UK citizens to send emails or faxes to their MP, MEPs and other elected representatives. It is not true that MPs take no notice of constituents' concerns. And MPs really do need to be told the facts about vaccination for FMD and to engage against the insanity we are enduring in the country because of political and economic pressure masquerading as scientific advice.
    Meanwhile, Nick in Cumbria has been trying to get some answers from the DEFRA Helpline

September 26 2007 ~ Yet another case? Foot and Mouth Disease: temporary control zone established in the Surveillance Zone near Maidenhead

    In addition to the usual "This is a precautionary measure following a veterinary assessment of clinical signs. Laboratory tests are ongoing" we also read that
      "Defra has also today received positive test results for Bluetongue for a fourth animal on a third premises near Ipswich, Suffolk. This animal will be culled."
    and the equally depressing and extraordinary statement: "At this stage, there is not sufficient evidence to confirm an active outbreak of Bluetongue as it cannot yet be demonstrated that the disease is circulating. Epidemiological investigations are on-going to establish whether bluetongue disease is circulating in the UK. Action will be in line with the UK Bluetongue Control Strategy, published in August, but will also take account of the current FMD restrictions." It remains essential for animal keepers to practice (sic) the highest standards of biosecurity, remain vigilant for disease and report any suspicions immediately. Livestock owners should examine their livestock twice a day."
    Oxfordshire has now been placed within the FMD Risk Area

September 26 2007 ~ "The penny is slowly beginning to drop that if the British public want home grown food, produced to a high standard of animal welfare and health, it will be expensive...

    .. Or there will not be any significant home production. As an island we will be vulnerable, as the world demand for food increases."
    The latest article on landcare.org on animal disease must be read in full. It is highly critical of the Royal Society of Scotland's assessment of the threat to Scotland of Avian influenza, but many of Dr Irvine's conclusions apply to all aspects of animal disease control in the UK. One of his conclusions is particularly urgent and important:
      "The importance of taking part, along with the rest of the UK, in persuading Brussels to adapt its Directives to keep pace with the application of modern technology, and to do so promptly according to the regional requirements of Member States. This is of particular importance if the most effective weapon against viral infections, vaccination, is to be used. The main obstacle to its use at the present time are the EC rules regarding the exit strategy."
    But if the meeting of Agriculture Ministers in Brussels today spends all its time discussing GM maize and sugar, (as on the agenda) a vitally important opportunity will have been missed.

September 26 2007 ~ Confusion still reigns about the number of animals killed by the non-vaccination policy

    While we know about the 7 IPs following the escape of virus from Pirbright, there seems a lack of information about "slaughter on suspicion" - that unpleasant phrase from the carnage of 2001. ProMed remarks (see below) the 2 orange triangles (infected premises - evidence of PCR). "This means, that the total number of IP's, on Fri, 21 Sep 2007, was 8; this deviates from the 5 IP's which were officially published."
    The EU Directive requires that a written report to the EU Commission must include, ".. in cases where animals of susceptible species have been killed in contact holdings or in holdings containing animals of susceptible species suspected of being infected with foot-and-mouth disease virus, information on:
    • the date of killing and the number of animals of susceptible species of each category killed in each holding and in cases where animals of susceptible species in contact holdings were not killed, information must be provided on the reasons for this decision,
    • the epidemiological link between the outbreak or case of foot-and-mouth disease and each contact holding or the reasons that have induced suspicion of foot-and-mouth disease in each suspected holding,
    • the results of the laboratory tests carried out on the samples taken from the animals of susceptible species in the holdings and when they were killed.
    From Annex ll of the EU Directive (page 44). The latest report from Debby Reynolds we can find is on the OIE and dates from 24th September. Certainly, no reports of the missing infected premises - evidence of PCR killings are mentioned there.

September 26 2007 ~ "Since Friday, 2 additional IP's have been officially added, bringing the official current total to 7 IP's while -- according to the map -- their number is 10."

    The ProMed moderator points out a discrepancy in DEFRA's epidemiological map on page 16 of the new epidemiological report updated 21 Sep 2007 ".....the sender of this report comments that the epidemiological map on page 16, updated 21 Sep 2007, shows 6 red triangles ("Infected premises - disease confirmed") as well as 2 orange triangles ("infected premises - evidence of PCR). This means, that the total number of IP's, on Fri, 21 Sep 2007, was 8; this deviates from the 5 IP's which were officially published. The moderator comments
      " It is possible that the background to this discrepancy is the criteria applied by the authorities in defining an IP; clarification will help.
      As to the (according to the above report, very remote) possibility that deer could have been involved in the dissemination of the FMD virus, subscribers are reminded that this issue was subject to a study at Pirbright during the early 1970's. The study, which included experimental infection trials, showed that infected red deer can shed amounts of virus similar to cattle and sheep, and could thus infect in-contact animals. It was also shown that fallow deer and sika deer can become carriers. (Gibbs et al., 1975. Foot-and-mouth disease in British deer: transmission of the virus to cattle, sheep and deer. Vet. Rec., 96, 558-563). - Mod.AS]."
    See abstract to the paper mentioned. Our own first reference to the roaming Surrey deer was on August 5th.

September 26 2007 ~ "It is time for a serious conversation with UK farmers and the public about the realities of infectious diseases in today's world of rapid global travel and trade "

    " Is there any other part of the human struggle against human or animal diseases that is still stuck in the 18th century?" Roger Breeze was contacted by a major UK Media organization that wanted to know if he was willing to comment on the failure to use vaccine or rapid tests in the current UK FMD debacle. This was his reply. Extract:
      "......Can I suggest that 6 years after the debacle of 2001 and with renewed attention stimulated by avian influenza, the recent small FMD outbreak and first discovery of Bluetongue it is time for a serious conversation with UK farmers and the public about the realities of infectious diseases in today's world of rapid global travel and trade? I am happy to talk to you about rapid FMD testing for UK but this would be a conversation about whether the Titanic's deck chairs should be stored deep in the hold or close to the sun deck whilst sailing in iceberg-filled waters.
      I attach a recent paper (1) that I wrote for the International Office of Epizootics (the World Trade Organization-like body that regulates international trade in animals and animal products). This sets out my views and how to pay for them....."
    Dr Breeze's comments might be of interest to readers who are also asked for responses.

September 26 2007 ~ Bluetongue latest

    also includes quotation from ProMed moderator's commentary which, although couched in the most tactful language, is nevertheless very different from usual.

September 25 2007 ~ DEFRA lifts the temporary zones in Hampshire and West Sussex

    Defra website - and adds the bald sentence, "The Foot and Mouth Disease situation is that there are currently 7 Infected Premises."
    Seven infected premises.

    More "slaughter on suspicion" apparently going on because tests can't be done fast enough, monitoring and surveillance so ineffectual that cases were missed and still, even now with evidence of virus having been circulating for weeks, no move on vaccination, pedigree herds destroyed, lives made miserable and a desperate situation on all the farms in the country still only partly being addressed.

    What kind of Contingency Plan for the whole of Britain is this? As Roger Breeze says, " The current issue is not should the government use rapid FMD tests or should it vaccinate animals.

    The issue is that 6 years after 2001 UK still does not have any rational concept of how to control highly-infectious livestock diseases that quickly spread across national borders... If 2001 was not a wake up call for all of us, what will be?"
    Just spotted is the picture on Jonathan Miller's blog captioned "Cattle Farming: The Herd Struck by Cattle Plague, Slaughtering the Infected Animals Michael van der Guch, 1660-1725. Seventeenth-century disease control methods still being used by Defra."

    (Jonathan Miller has now sent the picture)

 

September 25 2007 ~ "The Government must listen to the specialists"

    The Times today publishes a long letter from Dr Colin Fink. Extract:
      ".....once again the handling of this infection has been an illustration of a woeful lack of understanding within Defra of viral disease....If we had started a thorough ring vaccination programme on August 10, when the onset of infection in the second affected herd was obviously so sudden that a large amount of virus was now within the countryside, the outbreaks in other herds would not have occurred. ... It is quite extraordinary to report that there are no virologists within Defra. This is contrary to a reply given to the Countess of Mar's question in the House of Lords when the Deputy Chief Veterinary Officer (DCVO) replied that there were more than 100.
      There is a lack of understanding within the vet labs' scientists of the mechanisms of clinical containment of viral disease. ... There is a failure to use newer techniques of nucleic acid amplification (RT-PCR) to detect the virus in pre-clinical stages in animals. This is a much more sensitive surveillance than veterinary clinical inspection or the penside crude antigen test that has been made for the Third World which Defra has sanctioned although it is of unverified sensitivity.
      It may be helpful to the Prime Minister's Cobra group to read Mary Critchley's voluntary website www.warmwell.com, to which a number of us contribute. The group should invite the most informed virologists with clinical experience to join their team and formulate sensible policies to contain this disease.... The British are subscribing to EU rules that virologists and informed vets consider to be ill-informed. It would be better to solve the problem with good science and then lobby for change in Brussels.
      A lack of coherent virological advice from the CVO and DCVO makes matters worse...."
    Full text is here. It is important that an expert practising virologist's understanding about vaccination is seen. We also refer people again to the very important paper written for warmwell in 2001 on veterinary vaccination and transmission by FAO expert Dr Keith Sumption back in 2001. In an article on the FAO website, describing the successful vaccination programme in Turkey last year, Dr Sumption says: "FMD is a virus that propagates incredibly quickly -- when it discovers a new niche where there is no immunity among animals, it just rips through them. Europe is FMD free, and animals there aren't vaccinated against it - so they have no immunity."
    ( Hansard reference)

September 25 ~ Farmers face fines for 'missing' foot and mouth

    DEFRA really are amazing. Here we read (Telegraph) of the threat to farmers who 'missed' old lesions in recovered cattle " being investigated by local trading standards officers and could be fined £5,000 or imprisoned for six months."
    We remember the moderator comment on ProMed on September 16th:
      "[Detection of FMD-suspected animals is a professional undertaking. During an outbreak, frequent visits of veterinarians to farms around infected areas will probably enable early detection of disease. The discontinued activity of many district veterinary investigation centres in the UK, an unfortunate process which took place during the 80's, had devastative effect upon this vital surveillance system. This has been demonstrated during several animal-health events since, culminating during the 2001 FMD epizootic. Putting the blame on the farmer -- whatever his/her age may be -- seems to this moderator unfair. - Mod.AS]"
    DEFRA has insisted on holding central control of animal disease. But the 'professional undertaking' of proper and adequate surveillance has been shown in the past six weeks to be beyond its capabilities. Such attempts to deflect criticism by threats of prosecution will strike many as quite breathtaking. As one emailer puts it. "... Action against farmers ? What next ? Taking midges to court over Bluetongue ?"
    The virologist, Ruth Watkins, wrote last week that Pirbright's "lateral flow" device would have been unlikely to spot disease either. On-site PCR is the ultra fast and reliable way forward:
      " I would think that sampling old lesions by their penside test is likely to be negative, whilst the PCR test will remain positive. This would not be because of antibody coating but because there is not enough virus present to register positive in the Pirbright lateral flow device. I think DEFRA should bring its ideas of good diagnostic practice up to date. I agree with Roger Breeze." (See article for warmwell by Roger Breeze)
    Relying on visual examination in the infected area is disastrous. As Dr Watkins says, "we have heard nothing of faecal sampling or milk sampling where essentially pooled specimens can be submitted to PCR and culture. Nose swabs and lesion swabs and blood can all have PCR done on them. Again nose swabs can be pooled. This appropriate test is looking for the presence of virus. If there are lesions then the penside test can be done as well. Obviously they have not invested in a. mobile laboratory. Any animal susceptible to FMD should be sampled in this way."

September 25 ~ "The real disaster is that, six years after the 2001 epidemic, a needless rule is still in place"

    A week ago, the farmer Toby Tennant gave a succinct and knowledgable reply to an article that had appeared in the Scottish Farmer, Vaccination "catastrophe" warning He rightly called obsolete the EU requirement for the treatments of vaccinated meat that has turned so many farmers against vaccination
      "....Modern science, which Defra seems so reluctant to understand and accept, has made these rules obsolete.
      Modern vaccines no longer mask the presence of the disease. They carry markers, which enable today's new diagnostics tests, which are fast, cheap and accurate to differentiate between antibodies induced by vaccines, and those induced by the disease itself.
      Therefore it's no longer necessary to impose an extra three month export ban on vaccinated animals for fear that they might act as carriers of the disease, or discriminate against vaccinated meat on the domestic market. The disaster of 2001 must never be allowed to happen again, and, thanks to modern veterinary science, it need not. The next battle is to ensure outdated rules, with harsh economic penalties, are abandoned.... The recent outbreak was a wake up call, which shows the urgent need to modernize the regulations..."
    read in full But DEFRA's heirarchy seems unable to contemplate the possibility that it could be wrong. We are reminded of what Magnus Linklater wrote, well over six years ago "So there you have it: the research, it seems, was wrong, the science was outdated, the slaughter unnecessary, the policy unethical, and the strategy ineffective. Apart from that, things seem to have been just fine. "

September 24 ~ New Outbreak. Yet another FMD outbreak within the Protection Zone - IP7

    DEFRA "Positive test results for Foot and Mouth disease (FMD) have now been confirmed at the site where it was decided that cattle should be slaughtered on suspicion earlier today. The site is within the existing Egham Protection Zone in Surrey and this becomes the seventh Infected Premises since 3rd August this year. Minor changes are being made to the Protection Zone (PZ) and Surveillance Zone (SZ) in the area..."
    The herd was killed at a farm in Englefield Green near Egham "as a precaution" (DEFRAspeak for the old "Slaughter in Suspicion"). Emailer Brent from Canada comments:
      "Makes one want to cry. We'd have been a lot better off if the vets and scientists that Gordan Brown applauds (below) had taken their normal vacations... All we would really need would be a few to organize distributing vaccine and instructions to farmers who could vaccinate their own animals, as Lawrence Wright's email noted And as Uruguay practised in 2001..."

September 24 ~ " During the outbreak this summer our vets, scientists and public officials in DEFRA cancelled their holidays..."

    "To fight the contagion farmers worked day and night. And they have done it all over again this month and continue to do so...." This was Gordon Brown in a speech reported by FWi this afternoon Their headline is "Prime Minister Gordon Brown uses Labour Party speech to back farming" Any comment here would be superfluous. And finding a polite enough turn of phrase to make such a comment might be difficult when we are all so busy trying to cope with the realities of the animal disease situation - a situation brought about by years of underfunding, lack of independent scientific input and a blatant centralised contempt for real farming.

September 24 ~ "Britain's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs did not immediately confirm the result of tests at the farm near Petersfield, about 55 miles (90 kilometers) southwest of London."

    It was the NFU that told www.live-pr.com the news it now reports that the "Petersfield" temporary zone has now been given the all-clear. It comments:
    "Farmers have already been hurt by the restrictions on the animal movements and exports following two outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease discovered over the summer. Hundreds of animals have been slaughtered and movement of animals has been restricted at what is traditionally one of the busiest times of the year for livestock sales...."

September 24 ~ Another Temporary Zone

    UPDATE September 25 (These were false alarms. ON-site RT-PCR could have detected the presence of the virus or its absence almost immediately. But samples are still being sent to the lab. Pirbright's penside test checks only for antigen and is unvalidated.)
    Today's map actually is within Hampshire. Here are both maps showing the West Sussex temporary zone centred on the village of Rogate from yesterday and now this one - again in the heart of the countryside in Hampshire. Once again, one wonders about what testing is being done before imposing these perfect circles.
    Update 17:15 24 September FMD
    DEFRA now says of FMD,
      "There are currently six Infected Premises. There is one Temporary Control Zone on the Hampshire/West Sussex border and in addition, a further Temporary Control Zone has today been established at a premises in Hampshire (ie those on the maps above).
      A further slaughter on suspicion for Foot and Mouth Disease is taking place at a premises within the existing Egham Protection Zone.
      Defra has also today published the latest Foot and Mouth Disease epidemiology report (pdf) produced by the National Epidemiology Emergency Group. It concludes that Infected Premises 5 provides a link between the August and September cases with Infected Premises 5 probably being infected by mechanical transmission, either from the Pirbright site or one of the first two Infected Premises in the Elstead area. It also concludes that Infected Premises 3 and 4 were probably infected subsequently.
      Based on the epidemiological report and the overall assessment of risk, two FMD risk areas will come into effect from 3.30pm tomorrow (Tuesday 25 September):
      Risk Area: consisting of Essex, Kent, East and West Sussex, Hampshire, Surrey, Berkshire, Hertfordshire, Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Greater London.
      Low Risk Area: The rest of England, Wales and Scotland. In England, farm to farm movements will be allowed also from 3.30pm Tuesday 25 September under stringent conditions and subject to high levels of biosecurity with enforcement by Local Authorities.
    As we expected, the epidemiological report contains no certainty nor hard news. The SoS slaughter is deeply concerning. Is it near Beaumont Farm? Are any animals in the royal farms concerned? What tests have been carried out? We should very much like to know the answers to these questions. The NPA site says that "outside the high risk zone, the distance limitations on farm to farm movements will be scrapped, but a veterinary certificate will still be required. It is expected movement to slaughter will still be allowed in the high risk zone. The inclusion of Essex in the high risk zone is a surprise. Further information about this may be available here this evening..."

September 24 ~ German National Farmers Union demand ring vaccination instead of culling and calls on Brussels for clarity

    Dr. Helmut Born, secretary of the German National Farmers Union (DBV) was quoted in "Die Welt" in August.
    (Translation and link here)
      In the light of the recent outbreak of FMD in the UK the German Farmers Union demands vaccination of susceptible animals. In the long term the culling of healthy animals is not justifiable. Dr. Born demands the implementation of ring vaccination around outbreaks to prevent spread of the virus. As this would result in trade restrictions for the whole of the European Union Born calls on Brussels to pave the way at WTO negotiations for a regionalized approach. It must be established under which conditions vaccinated animals can be traded. "The consumer in Germany and Europe will no longer tolerate the mass slaughter of healthy animals."
    This is the sane approach. DEFRA, however, will have none of it. With the support of our own powerful agri-industry, it stubbornly clings to most of the very same policies of 2001 that have been criticised with such horrified amazement not only in the UK but abroad.
    DEFRA's priority: "Reduce the risk of spread through identifying and culling Infected Premises, Dangerous Contacts and slaughter on suspicion"
    If PCR testing (which can be done on swabs without upsetting animals) were being done at farms to establish pre-clinical disease, DEFRA would have more hope of containing the disease - but it is their continuing resistance, as week follows week, to using emergency ring vaccination that is such a despicable dereliction of duty. The CVO and the DCVO should be facing very serious questions indeed..

September 24 ~ "The warm glow of competence has gone..."

    The Scottish Farmer (registration required) on the Lady Bracknell-esque feeling in Brussels "that one outbreak was an accident, but that the subsequent alert, on the day Brussels was set to give the all clear, is unacceptable."
      "...no adequate explanation has yet emerged as to how the virus moved. Theories abound, including vehicle movements, but without that explanation the commission will remain nervous about the true level of risk in the UK and the effectiveness of the precautions taken after the first outbreak..... the commission team is now asking some very pointed questions about Defra's stewardship of Pirbright.
      .... What has happened over foot-and-mouth is perfect evidence for farmers that responsibility sharing has to have real teeth. The government in London, or indeed the European Commission, cannot expect farmers to write a blank cheque if the industry can be put at risk by officials too wrong headed about finance to cost the industry millions by saving a few thousand on repairing a leaky pipe..."
    All true. But we can't help reminding readers that the EU Directive also places a responsibility on the EU Commission itself - see below ) to ensure that high risk laboratories are properly supported and safe. Article 66 "Checks of laboratories and establishments handling live foot-and-mouth disease virus" says "Veterinary experts from the Commission, in collaboration with the competent authorities of the Member States, shall carry out spot-checks to ascertain whether the security systems applied in the establishments and laboratories referred to in Parts A and B of Annex XI comply with the bio-security standards set out in Annex XII."

September 24 2007 ~ Deer do not recognise closure of footpaths

    In their latest entry about the FMD situation in the UK, ProMed give this link to a photo of the Great Walk at Windsor Great Park. It does rather make one think. We mentioned the possibility of deer as vectors on August 5th "...The official opinion that FMD infected roe deer constitute a low risk, because sick animals hide and probably die, is not valid. Like cattle or sheep, susceptible deer are very infectious prior to the development of lesions while they still actively move and graze. Also deer with sub-clinical or minor lesions will still roam around..."

September 23 2007 ~ Another outbreak? 48 miles away from Egham?

    Our attention is drawn to yet another circular map showing a temporary control zone with the villages of Rogate and Trotton in West Sussex (sic) inside it. See the pdf of declaration and map on the defra site here ( The relevant map is here)
      " Update 17:45 23 September A 3km Temporary Control Zone has today been put around a premises near Petersfield, Hampshire. This is a precautionary measure following an veterinary assessment of clinical signs. Laboratory tests are ongoing."
    One can only hope this is another false alarm but there seems no excuse in a case like this for not using rapid RT-PCR. It only takes 2 hours and the samples don't have to travel far to get to Pirbright. Why could not the initial results have been waited for before this declaration? RT- PCR results would surely be available by now - negative one assumes since there has been no further announcement. The symptoms of Bluetongue are similar - as the unfortunate farmers in Ipswich discovered after their animals were cleared for FMD.

September 23 2007 ~ "I believe that the Germans are proposing a permanent lock-up of birds"

    Everything in animal health is ultimately connected. We read with great foreboding, in connection with H5N1, that "German bird-keepers are now threatened with an indefinite lock-up, causing welfare problems in particular for waterfowl." If readers feel concerned about the closing in of free range birds on very dubious scientific grounds please see H5N1 page. The petition referred to closes on 29th of September and will take only a moment to sign.

September 23 2007 ~ "of course our approach towards vaccination has to be reviewed, particularly in the light of new and more effective vaccines" (J.Scudamore in 2002) "Of course.." yet more pyres are now envisaged

    In his memo for the Anderson "Lessons Learned" Inquiry, the then CVO, James Scudamore wrote in a tone that can only be described as defensive:
      "....of course our approach towards vaccination has to be reviewed, particularly in the light of new and more effective vaccines. The Commission will actively support such a review both at the EU level and in the relevant international bodies like the OIE. However, we should not allow our enthusiasm for more effective vaccines cloud our judgment. Instead, they must be properly researched, validated and accepted for use at the international level. FMD is too dangerous to allow fundamental changes in approach which are taken in haste."
    The properly researched, validated and internationally accepted vaccines that Mr Scudamore's memo described in 2002 have been with us for many years now. (see here) But without ring vaccination in early August the continuing movement controls across the entire country have led to literally millions of animals that are as good as trapped. The Sunday Times reports calmly: " The government is considering the culling of millions of sheep trapped on hills by the livestock movement ban imposed after the recent foot and mouth outbreaks. That could mean a return of the pyres of cremated animals seen in the 2001 outbreak..." In similar vein, the Sunday Telegraph "...Pig farmers are being forced to shoot livestock because they say low supermarket prices mean it is too expensive to feed them. They also claim that restrictions on animal movements because of foot and mouth and a rise in the cost of fodder are pushing them towards economic ruin."

September 23 2007 ~ The first ever case of Bluetongue disease in Britain in one cow near Ipswich, Suffolk. It has been culled and restrictions put in place on the infected premises.

    There was no need to kill this cow - culling is not a strategy for bluetongue. More on Bluetongue page.
    There is heavy irony concerning vaccination for FMD and for Bluetongue.
    On one hand we have excellent FMD vaccines, they are available within mere miles of the infected zone, vaccinated animals have never been implicated in the spread of FMD - and yet the UK will not agree to use them. Already about two thousand animals have been killed and no one knows where the disease may emerge next.
    On the other hand we see Europe crying out for bluetongue vaccine, but this is not yet ready for distribution.
    Michel Barnier, the French Minister of Agriculture, has been pressing for the subject of bluetongue vaccination to put on the agenda of the next EU meeting of the Council of Ministers of Agriculture on 26 September 2007. We saw on ProMed on Wednesday that Holland has also obtained the support of Belgium and Germany to raise bluetongue vaccination at that meeting of agriculture Ministers on Wednesday.
      " The vaccine must be ready before Christmas, [so that] veterinarians will be able to carry out preventive vaccination in spring [2008]."
    What is more, the Dutch MP, Krista van Velzen, wants to see preventative vaccination against Foot-and-Mouth Disease made compulsory." The Belgian minister Laruelle (Agriculture) is already willing to provide the government's partial financial coverage of the vaccination costs". And the French Agriculture Minister, Michel Barnier, is solidly behind the move to an EU-wide vaccination programme for bluetongue. Can EU legislation making FMD vaccination truly the control measure of choice be very far away when bluetongue vaccination is being so very urgently requested? Will Hilary Benn be led by the archaic advice of the Fred Landeg brigade, anxious not to be seen retreating from the UK's entrenched slaughter policies? Or, when he goes to that meeting next Wednesday, will he add his voice to those of the EU Ministers who are eager for change?

September 22 2007 ~ 11 Surrey farms had their animals killed last week?

    A reliable source tells us that eleven farms were due to be culled out last week . Although the excellent BBC map shows 14 small blue squares denoting the "centre of zones" we have, in this September phase, only the names of Hardwick Park Farm, Egham, Stroude Farm, the Klondyke farm and now there is the unfortunate Beaumont College Farm. That is four. That leaves ten. See also email on Sept 18th from Hugh Boyes. The practice at DEFRA's "latest situation" page (last updated on Friday at 9.45 pm) seems to be to keep the names of farms affected secret - although journalists very soon find the names of the infected farms and interview their unhappy owners. But anxious farmers and smallholders in the area must be desperate for hard news and exact locations.
    One thing we do know, however, is that the people carrying out the killing in Surrey, (whom we refrain from terming vets), were unable to provide the names of valuers to owners waiting to have their animals given a fair price before being killed. The culling was subsequently delayed. Eventually a valuer from Worcestershire was brought in.
    We hear from someone actually on the vaccination team for FMD that ".. we were all sent home on Tuesday as they decided not go ahead at this stage." COBRA, it seems from the lack of news, did not decide to go ahead at this stage either. Incompetence, ignorance, inhumanity and bad judgement really do seem to be heaped one on top of the other in this sorry state of affairs.

September 22 2007 ~ Royal animals now in imminent danger

    An emailer writes, ".... the cattle culled that came back positive yesterday, grazed in a field directly adjacent to Windsor Royal farms; there is apparently a Windsor pig unit just over the fence and a pedigree sheep flock just on from them, and of course deer all around. They (his informants) had been told that there are high level meetings going on this morning to decide on the next step."
    If the "next step" is not emergency ring vaccination, we hope that there may be others rather more important than ourselves who will tell those in COBRA that they are Not Amused. Are we to be told that it is still "too early" to make that decision to vaccinate? If things go on as they are, are we to be told that it is too late?

September 22 2007 ~ Misery escalating

    As we type this, the small herd of 40 pure-bred West Sussex cattle are being "culled" at Beaumont College Farm, in Old Windsor, Surrey. PA reports
      "A Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs' official at the farm said on Saturday the couple were too upset to speak about the loss of their herd. "There are some very upset people in there at the moment," he said..."
    This is, we seem to remember, within sight of the River Thames and getting even closer to the Queen's own animals. "To cull" is, of course, a euphemism that means "to shoot" - not 'put gently and humanely to sleep' (see piglet story below, if you can bear it) Culling also means " slaughtering within sight and smell of each other" - it meant this in 2001 and there were many botched attempts that led - as on Saturday 15th September. to further distress. That incident last week involved terrified cattle bolting and being chased for several hours, on foot and by helicopter, before being shot by police marksmen on a public golf course. In 2001 it led to yet more centres of infection being assumed and yet more contiguous culling.
    This outbreak at Beaumont College Farm was ten miles away from IP1 in Normandy and no one is yet any the wiser about how virus from Pirbright got there. Footpaths across the National Trust's Runnymede estate had been closed since the decision taken to close them (a little late. 6.08 pm on August 7th) near Pirbright. (More information on this in the Telegraph)

September 22 2007 ~ the underlying cause of the UK's reluctance to vaccinate

    Unfortunately, letters to the Minister, such as that from the excellent Compassion in World Farming (here), tend to fail to get to grips with - nor spell out in words of one syllable - the underlying cause of the UK's reluctance to vaccinate.
    • for the live-export farmers, a powerful group ever at DEFRA's side, it is the unfair EU trade rules ( here) that discriminate against vaccination. (Many feel live export in itself is an aberration)
    • for all livestock traders is the confusion about what treatments are demanded ( read here) if vaccination happens - and this really is a legitimate reason for concern, although comments from Bernard Vallat, the Director General of the OIE, suggest that things are not as bad as they may seem. OIE experts see no reason to identify/label products from vaccinated animals and this thinking will inform the imminent debate on bluetongue vaccination too.
    • the reason for DEFRA is a refusal to accept that the public sector technology and expertise, so long underfunded, is not up to coping with the alternative to vaccination. At the top of DEFRA there seems also a deep conviction that, as a government department, they and their advisors must be right and everyone else wrong
    • The Expert Group does not comprise enough truly independent advisers. They tend to follow the thinking of all those above on this list. Yet the EU was clear on the sort of independent thinking it required and the record of the present group is not good. (see performance criteria required)
    And as Abigail Woods wrote so persuasively in her book "A Manufactured Plague" ".. for over a century, FMD has brought fear, tragedy and sorrow - damaging businesses and affecting international relations. Yet these effects were neither inevitable nor caused by FMD itself but were, rather, the product of the legislation used to control it.."

September 22 2007 ~ Devastating comment from ProMed about potential spread "for weeks"

    The ProMed moderator today says,
      " DEFRA's decision to cull the animals in this holding "on suspicion", prior to laboratory testing, was based upon the clinical examination, probably taking into consideration that the animals might have been exposed to infection from neighbouring farms. Reportedly, animals in IP 5 (The Krondyke farm), had been infected -- and potentially spreading the virus -- for weeks before eventually diagnosed and culled."
    A BBC map of the locations of IP3, IP4, and IP5 is available here
    We have now seen the spread of the escaped virus from Pirbright to Egham and beyond (see map) and it all started on August 4th. That it will have got further seems inevitable. Professional surveillance and testing, using hi-tech equipment, is paramount for OIE List A diseases. DEFRA still wants farmers to share costs on disease control - but sharing involves shared responsibility on both sides and at present DEFRA seems - because of long-term underfunding, lack of the latest hi-tech diagnostic equipment and a lack of expertise driving the policy - unable to cope. As we say below, if Pirbright's arsenal of diagnostic equipment is not as impressive as it should be, blame for this does not lie with IAH. We seem to have a government that does not understand the importance of existing technology and expertise in the realm of animal disease and chooses not to spend money on supporting its own scientists nor in getting the best systems in place.
    It will be seen eventually that the decision not to use ring vaccination when the "Ring" could have been limited to such a small distance was a mistake of the greatest seriousness.

September 22 2007 ~ Will Hilary Benn be up to speed on this? Will he have the understanding to call urgently for the FMD rules to be changed?

    Where can we read definitive information about the pros and cons of vaccination? asked an emailer the other day - and we are sorry to say that this website is pretty much it - and the vaccination page on warmwell is worth reading in full..
    There are some indications that with concerted effort, a "virtual community" can be set up so that the information about the wider impact of the outbreak and the case for alternative strategies - including vaccination - can be gathered together in one place.
    The NFU has said this year that it is not against the use of vaccination if it's the right control policy. Unfortunately there are those who seem to have clearly told the NFU that this would "not help" in this incident. We still can hardly get over the extraordinary (anonymous) reader comment in the Scotsman on Thursday saying "..We haven't see a scrap of veterinary/scientific evidence in favour of vaccination..." The most obvious "scrap" is the eradication of FMD in Uruguay at the same time as our own was simmering on and on
    As Ruth Watkins, the expert in viruses who is herself a farmer, has said:"... the problems of scientists in labs as they have no specialist training generally in the subject ie infection or virology, nor field experience, their focus is narrow and confined to the lab.." Where thinking is so rigid among the scientists and even among so many vets, we need a central and well publicised bank of expert opinion. The problem is that those who trot out the line that there are "problems with vaccination" fail to specify that these problems are economic and political ones. On the agenda for the meeting on September 26 of EU agriculture Ministers should be the Europe-wide call for vaccination against BTV-8 and accompanying arrangements. Will Hilary Benn be up to speed on this? Will he have the understanding to call urgently for the FMD rules to be changed?

September 22 2007 ~They should create quite a large vaccination zone, perhaps larger than Surrey depending on natural boundaries especially to deer.

    Ruth Watkins writes,
      "... they do not know for sure how the virus escaped from the Pirbright site nor how it has reached Egham with quite a gap in distance and time even if farm 5 was infected about 2 or 3 weeks after farm 2. They should create quite a large vaccination zone, perhaps larger than Surrey depending on natural boundaries especially to deer..."
    Meanwhile we hear such stories as this that we thought, after 2001, never to hear again. A harbour master who had rescued a drowning piglet that he had named "Lucky". While he fed it with warm milk and "kept it entertained", the RSPCA officials "explained the law about livestock movements" "...they took the piglet across the road from my office and then we heard a gun shot." This is Britain 2007and it stinks. Sticking to the law...loading people onto trains...following orders.... No wonder these decent tugmen wished they had kept away from the RSPCA.

September 22 2007 ~ Doubts about the Pirbright drain theory voiced in Farmers Weekly

    Lawrence Wright tells us about the Jonathan Riley article in the Farmers Weekly magazine: ".... He quotes "a former senior official" who worked at the IAH site at Pirbright for over 30 years casting doubts on the theory that FMD could have spread from leaking drains. Referring to the theory that virus escaping from the drains was carried to local livestock on something like workers' clothing or vehicle tyres he quotes the official as saying that this was "asking people to believe improbable, on top of improbable, on top of improbable. For this scenario to have worked would require hundreds of thousands of doses to have escaped down the drain.....The notion that the virus would remain infective on a lorry tyre, at least in sufficient quantities to infect animals, is stretching reason and imagination beyond breaking point" ...." More
    All the same, if lorries went in various directions out of Pirbright carrying soil should there not have been a much wider surveillance of sheep? What did they do about the soil removed from the site given that it was deemed to have been a source of infection? Could it have ended up in a local farm to save time and trouble?
    Are there any veterinary infectious disease experts out there?

September 22 2007 ~ No one knows where the animals moved from Surrey ended up...

    An alarming development this week, says the Herald, " was the revelation that 139 animal movements have been recorded as going off farms in the 50 kilometres in Surrey, but there is no record of them coming on to farms. In other words, 139 animals have come out of the highest risk zone in Great Britain and vets have no idea where they have gone...."
    Meanwhile, the Hexham Courant is just one of the newspapers to predict disaster. It quotes one distraught farmer: "Prices are in free fall; the industry just can't take it. It beggars belief. "Prices have halved in two months. It's a disaster, with feed costs up 20 to 30 per cent since May. The livestock industry is in crisis and so many people are despondent. It is a serious situation. There will be people going out of farming because of this."

September 22 2007 ~ DEFRA confirmed a sixth outbreak last night - still in the Protection Zone.

    On the Scottish Crofting Foundation website, Cabinet Secretary Richard Lochead is quoted as having said (19th Sept) that "work has today identified movements involving 72 cattle from three farms in Surrey to farms in three different parts of Scotland" and " A number of other tracings across GB are causing concern." No evidence like this appears on the DEFRA website.
    We now read in the Herald that "Defra has claimed that it has no money for a welfare cull of hill lambs despite the Scottish Government stressing that it has a moral responsibility to pay for it. That prompted an angry response from NFU Scotland at the negligent attitude of the UK Government to the consequences of an outbreak that it is partly, if not wholly, responsible for...."

September 22 2007 ~ The farm where the cows were culled on suspicion has tested positive for FMD - the 6th case.

    Ruth Watkins writes, "Will this trigger vaccination?
    Will a case of bluetongue in the UK trigger FMD vaccination?
    Whilst it is useful to look out for and report clinical signs there is too much emphasis on this at present. ....I think farmers would be doubly mortified if they knew that diagnosis especially in screening was not the best available, in this epidemic of laboratory escapee virus. (More)
    DEFRA cannot be in control when they do not know for sure how the virus escaped from the Pirbright site nor how it has reached Egham, with quite a gap in distance and time even if farm 5 was infected about 2 or 3 weeks after farm 2. They should create quite a large vaccination zone, perhaps larger than Surrey depending on natural boundaries especially to deer."

September 21 ~ Yet more animals to be slaughtered on suspicion

    Almost unbelievably, and following the good news that the Solihull animals were not killed comes an update from DEFRA
      Foot and Mouth Disease update: slaughter on suspicion in Surrey
      The decision has been taken to slaughter cattle on suspicion of Foot and Mouth Disease on a farm in Surrey. This follows a veterinary inspection of the affected cattle on a parcel of land in the existing Protection Zone. There is no timetable for when laboratory results from these premises will be received.
    It brings into even sharper relief the article for warmwell by Roger Breeze today.
      "In 2002 Callahan and colleagues (1) described a real time PCR test that could be performed within an hour on or close to premises where there were animals that might be infected.... this PCR test could detect foot and mouth infected animals 2 or 3 days before they showed any outward signs of disease and before virus could be identified by any other means.."
    That was news in 2002 and yet we still read on the BBSRC site and on a page that actually cites very Callahan paper mentioned above by Dr Breeze, the following "...the development of technologies that provide rapid and sensitive diagnosis of FMD that ideally can be deployed in situ without transferring the samples to a central laboratory is a current research priority" NO. It is NOT a research priority. It already exists, has done for at least 6 years, is used elsewhere in the world and could have been used today to test and perhaps save those doomed cattle.
    It is sickening.
    UPDATE Test results are returned more quickly when positive. A ProMed moderator says,
      " DEFRA's decision to cull the animals in this holding "on suspicion", prior to laboratory testing, was based upon the clinical examination, probably taking into consideration that the animals might have been exposed to infection from neighbouring farms. Reportedly, animals in IP 5 (The Krondyke farm), had been infected -- and potentially spreading the virus -- for weeks before eventually diagnosed and culled."
    A useful map, showing the locations of IP3, IP4, and IP5 is available at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/spl/hi/pop_ups/07/uk_enl_1190130862/html/1.stm

September 21 ~ " Defra are investigating two Bluetongue Virus reports"

    News we really did not want to be reporting. Suspicion at the moment, we understand. More when we hear. Meanwhile see Bluetongue page for the worsening situation on the other side of the Channel.

September 21 ~ Getting information out of a stone

    Some quick-witted person eventually phoned round to ask what was the accurate answer about the fate of animals at Woodhouse Farm suspected of FMD in Solihull. The Solihull Council Office knew. No animals were killed; the area was cordoned off and tests taken.
    Both Scotland and Wales have now got an FMD messaging service but we hear from Bill Osborne that he tried hard to get information about the Woodhouse Farm results yesterday from the fountain-head :
      " I've just phoned the DEFRA Helpline to ask if they had the results yet of the test on the Solihull herd and the answer I got was - wait for it - " I'll look on the BBC news website to see if it's there."......"
    Not an awful lot of help...

September 21 2007 ~ "We do not have a lot of animals. We have pigs, sheep and cattle. A lot of them were pets. Two of the lambs used to sleep in the kitchen."

    Sally Hepplethwaite who is 69 and who farmed at Klondyke Farm with her husband, spoke to the BBC and in doing so artlessly revealed the human consequence of turning an eradicable disease into a political and economic one. The Farmers Guardian reports Mrs Hepplethwaite's bewilderment:
      "Animals are our life. I'm upset because even the cows I've had for a long time and they all had names. We will get compensation from the ministry. But it is heartbreaking. It is so quiet out there now. It's just so sad..."
    Official inertia to change is well known but it is not always as deadly as this. The outdated three month/six month rule is indeed unfair and ripe for change. If the government gives in to those who use political pressure - even a kind of blackmail - to defer vaccination, what happens next time? Far more than the disease itself, it is Britain's spineless giving-in to the crueller option that makes us, once again, the sick man of Europe.

September 21 2007 ~ "We can now add DEFRA to the list of those who never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity"

    writes Roger Breeze in this article for warmwell today:
      "..... In 2002 Callahan and colleagues (1) described a real time PCR test that could be performed within an hour on or close to premises where there were animals that might be infected... This test was more sensitive than traditional foot and mouth virus isolation and had the added advantage of detecting virus in non- optimal samples in which the virus was dead and not detectable at all by cell culture.
      But Callahan and his colleagues also demonstrated something remarkable and previously unsuspected - that this PCR test could detect foot and mouth infected animals 2 or 3 days before they showed any outward signs of disease and before virus could be identified by any other means.
      Had this rapid PCR test been performed on a few nasal swabs collected from each farm examined by animal health officers in Surrey in recent weeks there is no question but that infections would have been detected long ago even though lesions were not recognized.
      The British veterinary authorities and the government's Chief Scientist, David King, have known about this technology since 2001 - ......
      I also read that the Countess of Mar was told in the House of Lords that "tests have to be validated by the OIE"... This is not true....."
    Read full article The conclusion that wilful ignorance has been displayed at the top of DEFRA seems inescapable. We see on the BBSRC site that the Callahan research is cited. Yet we read, "...the development of technologies that provide rapid and sensitive diagnosis of FMD that ideally can be deployed in situ without transferring the samples to a central laboratory is a current research priority" But why is it a priority to reinvent something that already exists?

September 21 2007 ~ "a lateral flow device - similar to that of a home pregnancy test"

    Following their Statement 9 on September 16 IAH Pirbright brought out another statement, Statement 10 yesterday to explain the technology of the 'Rapid diagnosis' that they are using. The "lateral flow device" illustrated is not the rapid real time RT-PCR test that we have, for six years, been writing about. It is used to detect virus antigen (they call this "virus particles") the virus protein which naturally coats the virus RNA. It does not amplify any that are there. It is therefore not as sensitive as PCR since it can only detect virus particles when they are there in enormous numbers. (More on this)
    Pirbright uses the real time RT-PCR test but not as rapid on-site diagnosis, only (as far as we are aware from Statement 10) in the laboratory.
    The Pirbright penside test is not the same as the real time RT-PCR used in other countries in kit-form at the farm gate. That on-site kit can be a first line of defence test in the sort of acute situation that we had in early August. It can be done on nose swabs of animals not showing clinical signs and it can detect active virus before disease appears to the eye. It was the system offered to the UK in 2001 from Plum Island, and it was rejected on the grounds that it was "unvalidated" ( see below)
    Long time readers of this website will no doubt be bemused to learn that Pirbright's 'lateral flow device' is unvalidated.
    But if Pirbright's arsenal of diagnostic equipment is not as impressive as it should be, blame for this does not lie with IAH. We seem to have a government that does not understand the importance of existing technology and expertise in the realm of animal disease and chooses not to spend money on supporting its own scientists in getting the best systems in place. As Clive Aslet says below: "the cleverest scientists have gone with the money..."
    Newbury Today reports that its MP Richard Benyon has urged it to pump more money into Compton, the sister IAH lab of Pirbright near Newbury. He said, "I am fed up with the Institute's scientists and employees being the whipping boys for Government under-investment."

September 21 2007 ~ European Commission inspectors in London and Surrey

    The report of the EU's Food and Veterinary office is expected to be published within a month. Farmers Guardian " It is likely to recommend tightening up biosecurity at Pirbright and other laboratories, alongside suggestions to improve the response to foot-and-mouth outbreaks. Defra, which regulates, licences and inspects the Pirbright site, faces large claims for compensation from farmers who have suffered heavy financial losses as result outbreaks caused by lapses at Pirbright. A number of legal firms are putting together cases in a bid to claim money back through the courts."
    As we say below, however, if farmers are so bound by the EU Directive, its Article 66 can't be ignored by the Commission itself. It is also the responsibility of the EU Commission - see below) to ensure by carrying out timely checks that Pirbright is effectively and safely run.

September 21 2007 ~ "Details of contractors routes are being scrutinised by Defra"

    In the Farmers Guardian today an article by Alistair Driver considers a number of possible routes of infection. "....One theory is the virus got into sheep in August and spread undetected within the species and then into cattle in the Egham area....Epidemiologists have looked at the possibility that legal or illegal livestock movements on to a farm in the Egham....Could the river have risen, depositing the virus on the field? Or could it have been carried from the riverbank by birds?.... Did a vehicle or person pick up the virus on wheels or clothes in mud, faeces, grass or straw and deliver it, directly or indirectly, to the Egham area? Or alternatively, did the contractors who transported the virus from Pirbright to the Normandy area also deposit it somewhere else...." The article needs to be read in full

September 20 2007 ~ Solihull "Initial indications suggest that preliminary tests have ruled out foot and mouth"

    UPDATE On Thursday night Defra confirmed that laboratory results showed no sign of foot-and-mouth, and the control zone was lifted
    /icbirmingham.icnetwork.co.uk
      ".. .Initial indications suggest that preliminary tests have ruled out foot and mouth but Defra experts have yet to give the official 'all clear'. Top brass are said to be reluctant to rule out the disease until a second set of tests comes back negative."
    "Top brass?" The writer has put his finger one of the problems: Defra puts hierarchy before science, secrecy before transparency - so the public are very often in the dark about what the disease is, how it is spread and why vaccination is not being talked about. One quotation from a neighbour of the farm in Solihull illustrates this well: " I'm extremely surprised that there could be foot and mouth on that farm. The Cattells are extremely diligent in terms of how they operate, they're very clean...." This makes one wonder what the public think foot and mouth is. A plague it is not. It is an economic and political disease - only fatal to animals because of the policy used to remedy it. The animals in the second wave at Egham were not spotted because they had recovered on their own and were back to normal. How ironic that nearly two thousand animals have now been killed in the fallout from the decision not to vaccinate in a circle around Pirbright. How ironic that to eradicate this virus we must first set about a few out of date paragraphs in the EU Directive. After that, all the reluctance to use vaccination will die away along with the disease itself. As Roger Breeze wrote last month "... No new technology is needed - just the vision, the will and the resources. What British agriculture and all those who care about rural communities should understand is that there is no mysterious "they" who are going to remove the threat of accidental or deliberate introduction of foot and mouth disease sometime in the future. Only a few labs, and nations that you can count on one hand, are ever likely to contribute to such an effort, so if we don't do this no one else will - and Britain, like North America, the EU, Australia and New Zealand will continue to live in fear."

September 20 ~ General licences are now available for limited movements outside of the Surveillance Zone

    DEFRA "In line with Defra's risk-based, staged approach to allow specific animal movements, general licences are now available for limited movements with stringent conditions outside of the Surveillance Zone. These allow: * Pigs to be moved from breeding units to grower units and to finishing units to address current and anticipated welfare issues; * Animals susceptible to Foot and Mouth Disease to be moved up to 3 km between premises under the same occupation, or along and across a road, for any reason; * Cows for calving and cows with their calves to be moved up to 50 km between premises under the same occupation."

September 20 2007 ~ Foot and mouth could linger through autumn, scientist warns

    The Guardian reports on Colin Fink's interview on Farming Today.
      "......The foot and mouth virus could linger for months in autumn conditions, a leading specialist said today, in a warning that puts further pressure on the government to order vaccination of livestock against the disease.
      Colin Fink, a virologist from Warwick University, said the virus could survive for "a very long time in cool conditions". He gave the warning ahead of the release of a government report on how the disease spread from Pirbright to Egham.
      Speaking to BBC radio's Farming Today, Dr Fink said: "The longer they wait and vacillate about vaccination, the more this is going to become entrenched. "We have a major problem because without the sunshine to destroy the virus in the field, we're going to have the virus around for a long time."
    (Our full transcript of the interview is here)

September 20 2007 ~ No word yet on Solihull

    We can only hope that it is not FMD - and not Bluetongue either. The symptoms are similar.

September 20 2007 ~ "we have a major problem because without the sunshine to destroy the virus in the field we're going to have virus around for a long time .."

    Colin Fink on Farming Today. Listen again to Farming Today Extract:
      Farming Today: How concerned are you that now the virus will be in the wildlife population?
      Colin Fink: It's possible. Not only in the wildlife population which is one problem but it will be in what are called fomites - it will be in the fields, it will be in the mud, in the slurry, and that's a much more difficult problem to eliminate - and it will survive for a very long time in cool conditions in this sort of material . So now it's out there it is well entrenched and the chance of other animals picking it up and it then getting into the wildlife also increase day by day. The longer they wait and vacillate about vaccination the more this is going to become entrenched...
      Farming Today: But we can't vaccinate the wildlife population...
      Colin Fink: ..No but for any vaccine to be successful you only have to vaccinate about 70% of the susceptible population and then it will die out
    (Read transcript of the interview)

September 20 2007 ~ "We're working together with the industry right across Scotland, England and Wales to develop an approach based on areas..

    ..where movement controls, where it's right to do so, based on the risk, and on the epidemiology, can be removed or altered to allow the appropriate alleviation of animal welfare problems and to allow movements to occur above those for slaughter when it's appropriate to do so and I hope we'll be able to have an Indicative timetable before the weekend." Debby Reynolds speaking this morning on Farming Today

September 20 2007 ~ Supermarkets colluded to raise milk prices

    FT "The UK's largest supermarket groups, Asda, Morrisons, Sainsbury and Tesco colluded to raise milk prices, costing consumers an estimated £270m, the Office of Fair Trading said on Thursday. The supermarket groups could face fines of hundreds of millions of pounds if the competition watchdog's preliminary findings are confirmed. The OFT said the supermarkets and dairy processors Arla, Dairy Crest, Lactalis McLelland, The Cheese Company and Wiseman colluded to keep the price of milk, butter and cheese artificially high during 2002 and 2003. ..."

September 20 2007 ~The government's report on "how the disease spread" will be published on Friday.

    says the FT in an article that also reveals that the animals on IP5 were inspected by "Animal health experts " (ie SVS) three times before the lesions were spotted. The Scotsman today carries an article by Dan Buglass saying, "a large number of "hobby" farmers, many of whom lack a deep knowledge of animal health...." I have suggested that the lack of deep knowledge resides elsewhere and such assumptions about the level of 'animal health knowledge' among smaller farmers in Surrey are mere (and rather contemptuous) speculation.
    What will Friday's report on "how the disease spread" say? Does DEFRA have new understanding that it has not yet shared? Unlikely. With DEFRA's slow or inefficient methods of testing, surveillance has been woefully lacking. As I comment beneath the Scotsman article:"I sympathise with the NFUS wanting to establish a containment zone - but if Solihull or any other report outbreak does prove positive the odds will lengthen considerably. The unions should be pressing for the Directive to be changed. It is not written in stone."

September 20 2007 ~ The Common Agricultural Policy falls outside the control of the British Government, let alone British farmers.

    William Rees-Mogg writing in the Sunday Mail, able to see, as so many cannot, the connection between the price of oil, the population of the earth that must now be sustained, the fragility of food supplies, feed costs and the giant forces beyond UK control:
      "....here is one cost that every farmer has to pay, and that is the cost of oil, which enters into almost every input on the farm. It's not just a matter of diesel for tractors or the added cost of transport to market.....This has not only pushed up the farmers' costs, but has funded larger purchases of grain by the Russians. The Russian economy depends on high oil prices to fund grain imports.
      Even the largest British farmers are minnows in a sea of whales, unable to control their own destiny. They always have to face the weather, the biggest force of all. This year, waterlogged harvests have meant many British farmers had to buy grain they had expected to grow for themselves.
      .... farm markets are a valuable outlet, but tiny compared with Tesco. The world market for food now forecasts higher costs as well as higher prices. The Common Agricultural Policy falls outside the control of the British Government, let alone British farmers.
      Besides these global forces, the latest outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease is particularly serious because farming is already under such pressure. It comes as a major setback, just when the earlier outbreak seemed to have been brought to an end. The timing could hardly be worse...."
    It is a tragedy for the country that the brightest minds avoid Whitehall and Westminster - but at least there are a handful of excellent journalists. The seriousness of the present situation escapes the general public, perhaps because there is no shortage of food on supermarket shelves. Not yet.

September 19 ~ Many Happy Returns to the Countess of Mar

    Described today in the Times as ".. a tenacious crossbencher in the House of Lords, where she has the oldest title, dating back to 1115 She says: "I'm looking forward to getting back and having a go at Defra; they've done some terrible things recently." The Countess of Mar is 67 today.
    We have every reason to be grateful to her for the splendid questions she has asked in the House of Lords and her trenchant comments pointing out the idiocies we see around us. One example is that when, on the subject of rapid diagnosis in the field the Countess of Mar was told: "tests have to be validated by the OIE. We are waiting on that" her frustration was evident.
      "The Countess of Mar: My Lords, it is coming up to five years since the foot and mouth disease outbreak. If that has not been done, can the Minister say why not? I remember the late Fred Brown coming over from America and telling us that they were using the tests in America. Why has that not been done in this country in the past five years?" Hansard

September 19 2007 ~ "we just don't know when the sheep may have become infected - if they have ..."

    Uncertainty is at the heart of this crisis. Prof John Oxford - ( who, thank goodness, a virologist ) is quoted in the Telegraph today, speaking of the sheep at the Klondyke farm near Egham :
      "Somehow the virus got out of the lab, but when the sheep may have become infected - if they have - and what the process was, is not known. They may have been the first animals to be infected, if they are, but we just don't know."
    We now have three premises in Surrey on which animals have recovered from FMD (only to be slaughtered by the UK Contingency plan) They are:
    • Hardwick Park Farm, Egham, 12 September, with animals then testing positive. The farm comprises a number of separate parcels of land.
    • Then nearby Stroude Farm owned by Ernie Ward shortly afterwards
    • On Tuesday it emerged animals killed on suspicion (nowadays we have the euphemism "as a precaution") at the 20-acre Klondyke farm, John and Sally Hepplethwaite, had returned positive results. Cattle and sheep were slaughtered there on Monday but whether the pets were too has not, perhaps unsurprisingly, been made public. A cow had been moved on 11 Sep 2007 to a Welsh abattoir and traced to the St Merryn Meat Company in Merthyr Tydfil. It was removed from the food chain for testing.
    • In Solihull, Woodhouse Farm cattle have again summarily been killed before testing ( UPDATE DEFRA has just put up a revocation of the temporary control zone imposed on Sept 19th.
      Warmwell may have been wrong to say below that animals there had been slaughtered. Reports today, (for example at Horse and Hound) say that they were not. Apologies. However, the FT does say, "The discovery that IP5 cattle and sheep, which were culled as a precaution a few days ago...." so nothing is certain.
      The IAH scientists say (here) that they are able to determine in around one hour whether FMD virus is present in tissue samples.
    • laboratory tests on pigs slaughtered on suspicion last Saturday at another Surrey farm have proved negative.
    But no one feels confident that DEFRA is in control of this disease. There are too many uncertainties. Some 1,700 animals have now been slaughtered (PA)

September 19 ~ UK Contingency Plan to blame

    The bureaucratic insistence on following the Contingency Plan to the letter is now being used to excuse the early lifting of controls. Numbers of animals killed as a result of the escape of virus and subsequent decision not to vaccinate must now be close to two thousand. Recent developments in diagnostics and surveillance have not been incorporated into the thinking behind the Plan. Absent from the Contingency Plan are the crucial topics on improving record/data acquisition and analysis and there is, of course, no mention at all of on-site rapid testing. Pirbright, even today, and in spite of their Statement is not up to speed on the RT-PCR for virus RNA in the samples submitted. The on-site diagnotic test kits we have been describing on this site for 6 years now are available and can complete diagnosis within an hour so from the time the sample is received. Pirbright's ELISA capture test should not be more than 2 hours. One might expect some batching if hundreds of tests were being carried out, but Pirbright is receiving specimens from no more than 3 a day so far and usually just one.
    Four years ago, now, Fred Landeg was quoted here as saying: "This is a small island…. we have no trouble getting samples into the laborarory. Pirbright is the World Reference Library for FMD, and we use it in the laboratory, PCR that is. We are fully up to date" Alas, this complacency was sadly unjustified. Professor Martin Hugh-Jones' comments sum it up perfectly:

September 19 2007 ~ "Most non farmers I speak to are astonished to hear that FMD is not fatal to animals and not dangerous to humans"

    Lawrence Wright's email: Mr Wright is a sheep farmer who, like many others, was denied permission to vaccinate his own stock at his own expense in 2001
      "......NFU spokesmen give out the message that the suffering of the infected cattle is appalling and most people think that it is a kindness to kill them. They also infer that the payment made to farmers for the cattle in compulsory purchase is some sort of grant "compensation" and that the infected animals would be worthless...."
    Meanwhile, we hear from another reader, William Proudfoot: " I have just made an official complaint to the BBC regarding the nonsense in the Vaccination Q & A that you highlighted. While it almost certainly will make no difference at all, I feel that as many people as possible should be encouraged to complain about this and other inaccuracies.The more who do so, the more they might have to acknowledge their errors."
    After seeing this Lawrence wrote,
      "Please reassure William Proudfoot that he should pursue his complaint to the BBC. I am told that they do take listener feedback seriously - and he should persist. (Most complainants, feeling as he does, that "it almost certainly will make no difference at all', only try once...) If he feels his complaint is not being taken seriously, I am told, he should send it to the BBC Rural Affairs Committee - who will take it seriously."
    ( To write to Farming Today you can use this link)

September 19 2007 ~ "an outrageous piece of carelessness and misinformation."

    Can vaccinated animals still spread the disease? asks the BBC Q and A vaccination page today
    Yes. But vets say that vaccination helps to "dampen the shedding of the virus". In other words it helps slow the spread from infected animals. "Vets say"? It merely "dampens"? Where is the informed comment from people who understand both vaccines and viruses - the virologists? (Hugh Pennington is a microbiologist - not, alas, an expert in viruses.) The BBC's answers on vaccination form such a travasty of the truth that we wonder if the ground is not being prepared for an announcement about suppressive vaccination. Once again, Holland in 2001 is mentioned but without the important reason why the authorities there told farmers that their animals were to be killed; i.e that purely for trade reasons no vaccinates would be allowed to live. This horrified the farmers - and they will never again allow it, nor see below, would the Dutch Veterinarians agree to cooperate.
    Ruth Watkins is one of the best authorities we know. The BBC, who has often used Dr Watkins for sound bites, is not doing so at the moment. Could it be that they know full well that she will say, as Dr Watkins explains here, that a maximum of
      "5 days or so after vaccination antibodies to disease have developed so the virus cannot continue the chain of infection. It will not be able to spread -neither on that farm nor into the vaccinated neighbouring farms." And she would also point out that there is misunderstanding about the frequency of injections needed with high potency vaccine.
    Lawrence Wright, in an email today, tells us that he suspects that BVA President, David Catlow, went on to make his second point about vaccination - which could have been about vaccination to live - and the programme editor cut it out: This, says Mr Wright would have been, "an outrageous piece of carelessness and misinformation." And he adds, "After yesterday's efforts, something must have rung a bell because Anna Hill took time at the end of the programme to explain that Patrick (Holden) is advocating vaccination to live and that we now have tests to differentiate vaccinated and infected animals."

September 19 2007 ~ "This afternoon a Temporary Control Zone has been put around one premises in Solihull.

    This is a precautionary measure. An assessment of clinical symptoms by Animal Health veterinary staff has been carried out, and laboratory test results are awaited..." DEFRA We see too that the only other "information" today is an exhortation from Debby Reynolds that livestock keepers check their animals twice a day for signs of FMD. Does she imagine they are not doing so when so much is at stake? But the government also has a responsibility - virus testing and active surveillance. And a responsibility to give accurate and full information. For example, what is the order of infected premise 1, 2, 5, 4, 3? How DEFRA can convince anyone they have control over the outbreak when no one knows how the virus got to 5 we do not know - actually they don't even know how it got to IP One.

September 19 2007 ~ What meat and milk treatments are required for exported products after vaccination?

    Imports of meat into the UK from Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay may be from vaccinated animals, and although the meat must be deboned and matured, no record is kept of whether the animals were vaccinated or not. (Lord Whitty, Hansard)
    Annex 8 of the Directive sets out the treatments at present required for EU vaccinated products.
    Article 58, once disentangled of its terrifying legalese, says provided that fresh meat is properly identified, contains no part that could harbour virus, as in Annex 8 of the Directive, and kept separately from unvaccinated meat, meat and milk, it can be sold freely inside and outside the vaccination zone in the UK.
    Milk has to be pasteurised or sterilised - which it already is. Intra Community trade requires - at present - the treatments described in Annex 8, carry a special stamp and be transported separately but an EU Discussion document (not online) from last October said:
      "...the OIE has recently stated in two letters that their own experts and those at the world reference laboratory, consider that there should be no reason to identify/label products from vaccinated animals, and that FMD vaccination does not differ from those vaccines already largely used against other diseases that may affect the same animals, without any adverse effect on consumers...."
      ".....correct, informative and trustworthy information must be communicated from everyone involved: scientists, veterinarians, government and national food safety authorities, farmers, industry, retailers, multinational food chains and consumer organisations...."
    This looks as though there will soon be no justification left for any two-tier system and that we should indeed be lobbying for more rational changes to the rules. Vaccinated and antibody positive animals pose rather less risk than animals that may be infected with live virus but not noticed . In 2001, as has been pointed out, there is no doubt at all that we consumed infected products. Unrecognised, acutely infected sheep were passing through abattoirs undetected for some time during the 7 month epidemic.

September 19 2007 ~"The outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease in Great Britain has once again made it clear that the current EU policy is wrong"

    said the Dutch Socialist Party MP Krista van Velzen in August, calling on agriculture minister Gerta Verburg to put the argument at European level for compulsory vaccination for bluetongue. This we now see on ProMed has now happened and Holland has obtained the support of Belgium, Germany, and France to raise bluetongue vaccination as subject for EU discussions in Brussels on 26 Sep 2007.
      " The vaccine must be ready before Christmas, [so that] veterinarians will be able to carry out preventive vaccination in spring [2008]."
    It may be remembered that Dutch farmers, having been promised that their vaccination policy in 2001 was to allow animals to live, were then appalled to learn that all vaccinates were going to be slaughtered after all. An eminent Dutch vet from Utrecht, Peter Poll, said at the Bristol Conference in England in 2001 that he thought it very likely that the Dutch veterinary associations themselves " will no longer cooperate in an eradication programme as carried out in Spring 2001"
    The Dutch MP, Krista van Velzen, wants to see preventative vaccination against Foot-and-Mouth Disease made compulsory. The Belgian minister Laruelle (Agriculture) is already willing to provide the government's partial financial coverage of the vaccination costs. And the French Agriculture Minister, Michel Barnier, is solidly behind the move to an EU-wide vaccination programme.
    The mindset in Europe is changing fast. Bureaucrats hate change and the farmers' leaders would have Britain go along meekly with the EU rules that put farmers at a disadvantage if they vaccinate. But this is no way to get these absurd rules changed.

September 19 2007 ~ For the hill farmers it could be the end

    Hundreds of miles away from the small area of outbreaks caused by the leaked virus from Pirbright are the sheep farmers facing a situation where they have no income, extra stock to feed but dwindling supplies of food. By the grazing of their hefted sheep they have, for as long as any of the families there can remember, been keeping the wilder hills of Britain - the hills that tourists love to see - free of the march of weeds and tangled undergrowth. One is quoted in the Northern Echo who says of his sheep:
      "They normally go for breeding to farmers down South, but they are still on the farm and we do not know what is happening. We plan the whole year knowing that they will be sold at that sale. Everything is planned round that -the feeding, grass management; everything."
      The income from the sale is not profit, but goes on bills and running costs."
    If the hill farmers go to the wall it will be the country as a whole that will be the poorer. Those (and we see them on almost every forum) who have been encouraged by a government ignorant of the realities of real farming to vent their spleen against 'fat cat farmers' fail to consider what this crisis really means for the wilder places of Britain. Traditional farmers have skills than cannot readily be recreated and we owe them a great deal. Their loss would be more than a national tragedy. It is the trade rules that must be targetted - after we have put the ring vaccination in place that would ensure no further discoveries of healthy animals with healed lesions. But we now hear Evening Echo that " authorities have admitted they are now investigating a site in Wales too". The Welsh Assembly Government refused to disclose the location of the premises under investigation....but it seems that this was meat processing plant in Merthyr Tydfil and "no signs of FMD" have been found. (BBC) .

September 19 2007 ~ the 5th Infected Premises since 3 Aug 2007 changes the P and S zones map again

    "......from 11.35 a.m. on 18th September 2007, the declaration made at 16.50 on 12th September 2007 under article 31 of the Foot-and-Mouth Disease (England) Order 2006 (S.I. 2006/182) ("the Order"), as amended by the declaration made at 13.00 on 13th September, is amended under article 5(4) of the Order as follows: i) In Part 1 of the Schedule (The Protection Zone): • following the words "those parts of Surrey" add "and those parts of the Unitary Authority of Windsor and Maidenhead"; and • add the grid reference TQ 0013867338. In Part 2 of the Schedule (The Surveillance Zone) add the grid reference TQ 0013867338." Defra pdf
    The revised map can be seen here.
    UPDATE It should be pointed out that these new Surrey cases are not considered to be 'extra follow up cases', Lesions (healed) suggest that infection occurred at the same time as the IP 1 and 2 near Pirbright, but remained undetected. But healed lesions indicate successfully warded off disease by the animals' immune system. The killing of such hardy, recovered animals might be thought bizarre. But FMD is an economic disease and fatal to animals only because we choose to make it so.

September 19 ~ the importance of spending money on proper and adequate surveillance cannot be underestimated as we contemplate the unanswered questions about the spread of FMD to Egham

    The UN food agency, FAO, warned livestock producers this week (click here) that "... excessive concentration of animals in large-scale industrial production units should be avoided and adequate investments should be made in heightened biosecurity and improved disease monitoring to safeguard public health."
    It is good to see the FAO warning against large-scale industrial production units - if not on ethical grounds then at least for the self-interested reason that they can spread disease affecting both animals and man - as we saw in February at Holton. And the importance of spending money on proper and adequate surveillance cannot be underestimated as we contemplate the unanswered questions about the spread of FMD to Egham - and wait, without much hope of its early detection, for the first cases of bluetongue.

September 18 2007 ~ Kow-towing to out of date regulations is no way to get them changed.

    The OIE publication: Animal vaccination, (of which Part Two on the scientific, economic, regulatory and socio-ethical aspects of vaccination has just been published), is advertised on the OIE website. Extract:
      "... Public perception and disapproval of some veterinary prophylactic measures, such as mass slaughtering of livestock to control epizootic diseases, also contribute to drive vaccination as an alternative. This will be made easier, thanks to recent progress in veterinary vaccinology, such as the availability of marker vaccines.
    But in the UK, "recent progress in veterinary vaccinology, such as the availability of marker vaccines", is apparently unknown to the powerful forces of darkness at the head of the Ministry - and the policy of hanging on to see if we can get away with not vaccinating this time - see Debby Reynolds' statement today - seems to be holding sway. Trade rules have a stranglehold on this policy, but as OIE Director General, Bernard Vallat puts it -
      ".... profitability should not be a priority when vaccination policies are established."
    Farmers should be allowed to protect their animals from disease and - like the French Agriculture Minister Michel Barnier - the British politicians should be supporting farmers by calling upon the Commission to change the Directive. Those out of date parts of Article 61 that fail to understand the advances in vaccination must be expunged.

September 18 2007 ~ More misinformation on Radio 4

    David Catlow President of the BVA, speaking today about vaccination, is a vet of the "kill them, stamp it out" variety. Different from the James Herriot school of thought - so well illustrated by the German Veterinary Association yesterday. Their clear and practical views put our own vets to utter shame.
    Mr Catlow was misleading over the reasons for culling the vaccinated animals in Holland in 2001. He said it was because they couldn't distinguish vaccinated from infected animals. He never mentioned that the primary reason was so that trading could be resumed for export of pork etc as soon as possible. He selected to refer to this use of vaccination in Holland quoting Patrick Holden - someone who would never, ever advocate the killing of vaccinates or healthy animals - out of context. In fact David Catlow was indulging in political manipulation in a way we never thought to hear on the BBC. Or perhaps - more likely - both Mr Catlow and David Holden were misrepresented in what they actually meant by means of editing.
    Have we heard anyone speaking on Farming Today or in the public media who is an expert in veterinary infectious disease and virus infections and vaccination? (Lawrence Wright's email on the subject of the misleading information and BBC lack of balance today is well worth reading.)

September 18 2007 ~ "plans in place to introduce a vaccination programme should there be one more case of FMD"

    The Scotsman "has been led to understand that the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has plans in place to introduce a vaccination programme should there be one more case of FMD." Which, although welcome news, may be rather like the police deciding that if there is one more murder they will start taking steps to apprehend the perpetrator. We are distressed to read in the Scotsman Dan Buglass' comment that
      "This runs contrary to the balance of veterinary opinion, which reckons that the longer-term consequences could be even more serious, especially with sheep, where the symptoms of FMD can remain latent. "
    Does Mr Buglass and the "veterinary opinion" that he asserts is there, seriously maintain that not vaccinating around the centre of the disease is less likely to result in latently infected sheep?
    We find this sort of statement perverse and very much hope that some other scientific and veterinary opinion will be swiftly sent to this website once again to counteract such a view. UPDATE From Dr Colin Fink
      "Once again we must offer a more coherent opinion than that provided in the Scotsman: Vaccinated animals do not become 'carriers' nor do they excrete virus in to the environment if they are vaccinated whilst incubating the disease. The vaccine will ensure that any virus produced will quickly become coated in antibody and non-infectious.
      The yawning gap in any basic understanding of the actions of vaccines in animals and the different view for homo sapiens is to say the least perverse. Perhaps the UK Department of Health should hold a seminar for their Civil Servant colleagues in DEFRA?
      What is so sad about this outbreak is the tardiness in implementing a ring vaccine policy which many of us recommended back in early August. The EU legislation needs to come in to line with the virology and in the meantime our Defra Nero fiddles whilst Rome burns.
      "

September 18 ~ what is undeniable under the present arcane rules does not justify a brutal out-of-date policy

    Jim Walker's view, duly represented by Dan Buglass in the Scotsman:
      "... The methods used to contain the plague in Scotland were deemed by many to be brutal, including a cull of a large number of sheep on contiguous farms where there was no sign of infection - but the policy worked."
    No, the policy in Scotland was brutal and unnecessary. Another Scotsman article says
      "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? 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.""
    These were the words of Fordyce Maxwell of the Scotsman in October 2005. We recommend the full article. The line that "Vaccination would also jeopardise the export of beef, lamb and pork in carcase form as well as resulting in a substantial moratorium in the live animal trade." does not give enough detail. The actual result of vaccination under the present arcane and unscientific rules are better detailed here. The bottom line for the livestock farming industry bosses such as Mr Jim Walker, who forget that the rules are not set in stone is that they are far more likely to be changed if the spotlight of Europe falls on the UK's decision to vaccinate its animals against this economic disease. The German Veterinary Association is speaking the most sense at present.

September 18 2007 ~ Peter Ainsworth asked DEFRA which recommendations of the Spratt Review into the outbreak of foot and mouth disease the Government do not intend to take forward in full. Hansard

    Jonathan R Shaw's answer was that in regard to Recommendation 1, "we agree in principle but there is uncertainty as to whether any further work could conclusively identify the source of the virus. At present, we do not believe that it would add to our understanding of the risk mitigation measures...."
    However, Peter Ainsworth says below,
      "......since 2001, farmers have been subject to an oppressive government regime of inspection and penalties. If they get the smallest detail wrong, they get the book thrown at them. Yet when the Government fouls up, as they have done repeatedly, nobody seems to be responsible. ......why, when Professor Spratt recommends that "if identifying the source is considered a priority, an independent group" of experts should be convened to identify the source, does the Government reject the idea?... Could it possibly be that the answer might be inconvenient to a Government that is all too ready to impose orders, bans and regulations on others but is never there to take responsibility for its own mistakes?"
    DEFRA estimates its costs so far in Surrey at £8.7 million and the costs to the country so far at £20 million. It also emerges from Hansard that "Pirbright was last inspected under SAPO in December 2006. Some issues relating to biosecurity were identified." and that
      "IAH was required to submit action plans for addressing them and the progress of these plans was closely monitored..."
    But this tone of disapproving schoolmaster cannot hide the fact that it is ultimately the government's financial responsibility (and also the job of the EU Commission - see below) to ensure that Pirbright is effectively and safely run. All this points to the one thing that DEFRA is supremely good at - offloading responsibility and blame onto others but not giving them, the means to take control. Meanwhile, what of poor Britain?

September 17 ~ At eight o'clock tonight the BBC reported more infected sheep

    Strange that the BBC has become the first conduit of news to tell us of yet another infected premises - but tonight the BBC reports
      "A spokesman for the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said the farm's livestock would be slaughtered and further tests made." (Now on DEFRA - if one knows where to look on that labyrinthine website...)
    Jonathan Long, Livestock Editor, Farmers Weekly on the FWi forum writes:Re: Foot-and-mouth - latest developments including overnight news
      "Possibly the most worrying news I've heard in the latest outbreak has just reached me from someone connected to a culling team. Three culling teams have been called up this evening to start an immediate cull on three farms. I haven't been told where they're heading to, but I suspect bearing in mind the source that it will be close to the latest outbreaks. I'll endeavour to find out more and post it as I have it"
    "Three farms" sounds as if contiguous culling is in place.
    So here we are again: yet more untimely and distressing and - if we had been more sane, unnecessary - killing for a disease that - as Caroline Cranbrook says, " is not a killer disease. The consequences are barely noticeable in sheep, cattle do not die from it, and there are vaccines which can prevent them catching it. In the old days, it was difficult to tell vaccinated cattle from cattle who were suffering from the disease itself. This is no longer the case..."
    It may make a gentler future generation wonder at our callousness - as Alan Bennett says of the 2001 mass culling (Untold Stories p293): "In fifty years' time I am sure that we will not handle animals the way we do now and to succeeding generations our behaviour will seem as barbarous as bear baiting...."
    Meanwhile, it is good to know that one veterinary association at least has the courage to speak out in such a practical and helpful way against this egregious neglect of the benefits of modern science in disease control. As in 2001, our own British vets are strangely and worryingly silent.

September 17 ~ German vets want Britain to vaccinate

    A press release from the German Veterinary Association seems very clear even to a non speaker: In view of the renewed outbreak of the FMD in Great Britain they are calling for the the Federal Government to protest at the severe trade restrictions that result from vaccination to live and want vaccinated animals as well as meat and milk products to be traded freely. Dr. Ernst Breitling, president of the German Veterinary Association is quoted. Reference Extract:"Losses in trade that are always used as an argument against vaccination are, in our opinion, less important than the implications of animal welfare."

September 17 ~ Pigs culled were negative

    It has been announced that the tests done on the pigs killed on Saturday have returned negative results. Valerie Elliott jumped the gun. It is the failure of official ignorance of rapid diagnostic testing that the pigs on the small farm culled out "as a precaution" couldn't have done the same. As for the second foot and mouth case at Stroude Farm, Egham, Farmers Weekly says, " they could have been harbouring the disease for up to three weeks before the first Egham outbreak." Even more vaccination sceptics are now feeling that things will get out of hand unless this virus is stopped in its tracks by ring vaccination from the outside in. And still the papers and the television hardly even mention the word. Had RT-PCR been used to test the pigs and it had been seen that there was no virus, in theory at least, they could have been saved and retested.

September 17 ~ Questions the farmers want answered

    The main ones are these:
    • How much cover does the vaccine give to animals and for how long
    • what are the effects on the export trade
    • what extra restrictions are there for vaccinated animals/meat?
    There are answers here

September 17 ~ That there are no lines of communication between the private sector and the public sector is costing the country dear.

    Officialdom is failing to use RT-PCR because of a misconception about the possibility of detecting early infection in sheep. Rather than enlist the expertise of those at the cutting edge of diagnostics, they are using out of date methods. Colin Fink informs us today that:
      "The problem is in the way that they are assessing virus excretion and detection in sheep. They are using the criteria 'vireamia' based on tissue culture of live virus from sheep. Tissue culture is slow to show virus growth, (several days) labour intensive and will not detect antibody coated virus which will not grow in tissue culture. RT-PCR... will detect minute quatities of RNA in virus particles even if they are antibody bound and thus no longer detectable by tissue culture.
      RT- PCR is also complete in about an hour and is a whole new level of sensitivity and specificity.
      So for diagnostic puposes asking the question " Do these animals carry virus and therefore are they infected?" RT -PCR is a very large scientific step forward. The problem the Vet labs have is that they are still locked into their old criteria of diagnosis which does not fit the newer science of nucleic acid amplification (PCR).
      RNA may be degraded reasonably quickly and the specimens taken at the farm should either be analysed there on-site, (as Professor Fred Brown suggested in 2001) or be immediately placed in a substance which stops enzyme degradation of the RNA so the specimens may then be conveyed to a diagnostioc laboratory.
      But surely the Vet lab staff must know this? " Read in full
    What a desperate pity it is that there are no lines of communication between the hi-tech private sector - so willing to share their expertise - and the public sector whose disease control policy is causing anguish throughout the land and beyond.

September 17 ~ The reluctance to vaccinate may be being based on the expensive Risk Solutions CBA

    The simulation results are in disagreement with field evidence. Dr Sutmoller wrote at the time of the CBA
      "with regard to vaccination policies the report suggested that vaccination would reduce the size and extent of medium and large outbreaks only between approximately 15% and 50% and also reduce the number of animals culled for larger outbreaks by approximately the same percentages. Thus, according to these simulation results, the overall epidemiological effects of vaccination would be mediocre...These simulation results are in disagreement with field evidence...It appears that the results obtained by the model are, at least partly, a reflection of the inefficiency of the 10 km ring vaccination according to Defra's contingency plan (lack of resources!!) used as input for the simulation. With a good organization the 10 km rings can likely be vaccinated within 7-10 days and a solid immunity can be obtained in 90% of the population 7 days thereafter, particularly if high potency vaccines are used. The poor vaccination results as indicated by the simulation outcomes might also be caused by adhering to a 10 km vaccination radius from an infected farm, instead of considering natural zones based on geographical and demographical conditions. For modelling purposes 10 km rings may be attractive, but it is not the way FMD behaves in real life."
    Read in full. Once again one wonders if DEFRA is being guided by a model that has no relevance to reality. The comments about Risk Solutions analysis from warmwell and from others at the time - especially from Muckspreader - were somewhat less than enthusiastic.

September 17 ~ Is the public aware that it is illegal to take any of the following food and drink abroad?

    "Practical Boat Owner" has made its members away that it is illegal to take the following abroad: "Meat   Meat products   Milk   Milk and dairy products   from animals that are susceptible to foot and mouth disease, including cattle, pigs, goats, sheep and deer. The ban includes sandwiches, packed lunches and food for self-catering holidays, and includes fresh, chilled, frozen, tinned, preserved and processed products."
    What risk assessment produced this list and what the scientific basis for it is we should very much like to know.

September 17 ~ The Scottish Government launches an FMD text alert service

    subscribers in Scotland will receive text alerts with information updates such as relaxation of movement restrictions. To sign up people should text FMD to 07781 482146 (note that FMD has to be uppercase). There will be a one off charge at their mobile network provider's standard text message rate to sign up to this service but no charge to receive FMD texts. www.publictechnology.net/ says, "The new service complements the Scottish Government's other channels for keeping the public informed - helpline, website, and email newsletter. NFUS also runs a range of support services."
    As for England, the "Latest Situation" page of the DEFRA website says at 9.15 am today, "Page last modified: 15 September, 2007 22:20"

September 17 ~ "How much money has to be wasted and how many lives ruined ....?"

    asks the Telegraph. The shrugging off of responsibility by DEFRA and the government over the RPA scandal and this miserable FMD situation - a situation that could, without any need for "hindsight", have been stopped in its tracks on August 5th by the immediate use of the vaccine that was mere yards away, has seemed to so many of us despicable. See RPA page today for more detail.
    In the Scotsman, Dan Buglass writes,
      "Brown has never shown himself to be remotely farmer-friendly. He is known to have been furious at the cost of the 2001 epidemic and the strain it placed on his budget and since then he has successfully reined in the funds for research and development. I suspect that is why the drains at Pirbright were never fixed. Since 2005, the budget of the Institute of Animal Health (at Pirbright) has been slashed by almost 20 per cent while there has been a parallel fall in the level of staff. It is also widely understood that the State Veterinary Service has seen resources trimmed. I wrote four weeks ago that there must be a full and open public inquiry, but I am increasingly concerned this will not happen..."
    He gloomily predicts a welfare disposal scheme to get rid of light lambs and of course that is only one of the pitiful consequences of the situation. That the media in general are so silent on the subject of vaccination will, one day soon, be regarded with utter incredulity. It will be an Emperor's New Clothes moment. Now we read that "Australian veterinarians are on stand by to assist British authorities in the fight against foot and mouth disease" Another army of foreign vets coming here, not to cure but to kill, is the very last thing we envisaged over the past six years of writing this website, hoping that the vast amount of daily researched information might help to herald in a saner policy. In Hawes auction market alone, 30,000 young sheep were due to be sold in the two day auction event of the Yorkshire Dales. £2 million usually exchanges hands- but today no one can move anywhere except to slaughter. To see so constantly the exhortation about "biosecurity and vigilance" when the government's own record is so abysmal, makes one want to weep with frustration.

September 17 ~ Third Infected Premises* No vaccination

    The Times reports that this case, not yet officially confirmed by DEFRA, "coincides with today's official EU inspection of the Government's handling of the outbreak..." (See Farmers' Guardian on this)." The results of tests on cattle culled last Friday showed that they were infected.
      They were owned by Robert Lawrence on a plot of land near Chertsey. It was cattle kept by him at Milton Park Farm, near Egham, Surrey, that triggered the resurgence of the disease last week. Results are awaited on 24 pigs kept at a smallholding next to Stroude Farm, Virginia Water, where the disease was confirmed in cattle on Friday. The pigs were slaughtered amid fears that they could be infected.
      Vaccination teams are on standby at an aerodrome near Guildford, but are unlikely to be called on today. . .."
    The Times (Valerie Elliott) takes it upon itself to predict that "..without a dramatic rise in cases and no evidence of any leap in the virus from outside the surveillance zone, vaccination is unlikely to be recommended by Debby Reynolds". It also reports on the four cows terrorised by the botched cull early on Saturday morning. The animals fled across fields and through a canal and onto the 16th hole of Pyrford Golf Club. All 60 golfers at the course were kept in the clubhouse as armed police chased and shot the cows.
    Words fail us.
    * UPDATE. We see that the accuracy of the Times report is in question. ProMed (Monday) says, "The unofficial, yet to be confirmed, information above on a 3rd outbreak within the 2nd wave of FMD in Surrey, has not been mentioned by other news media. This outbreak is currently regarded as "suspected"..." And it now emerges that the pigs' results were negative

September 17 ~ Vaccinated animals can be moved within national borders

    Some farmers are under the misapprehension that animals can never be moved once vaccinated except to slaughter. Under the present Article 63 of the EU Directive they cannot be exported - (even though there is no valid scientific or veterinary reason why not) - but there is no ban on vaccinates moving freely within the UK once FMD status has been regained. Although with vaccination to live this is supposed to take six months, there is provision under Article 62 " .. to withdraw the restrictions applied in accordance with this Directive after the clinical and serological survey provided for in Article 56 and the measures provided for in Article 57 have been completed and confirmed the absence of foot-and-mouth disease virus infection." - a let-out clause that seems to allow for some degree of common sense.
    The mindset that balks at vaccination is, in any case, likely to have to shift very soon. French Agriculture Minister, Michel Barnier, very concerned about the seriously escalating cases of Bluetongue throughout Northern Europe (See Bluetongue page) is now calling on the EU Commission for a community-wide vaccination programme against Bluetongue and for support to be given towards the urgent supply of relevant vaccines before the originally expected time of Summer 2008.
    With such acceptance of vaccination for Bluetongue as we are seeing in France and much of Europe now, the mindset is certainly changing - and if for Bluetongue then it would be illogical for the outdated rules on FMD vaccinates to continue for much longer within the EU.

September 17 ~ Although the paragraphs on meat from the vaccination zone make one's head spin, they are not quite as complicated as they seem.

    Under the present Directive , vaccination to live ("protective emergency vaccination") means that animals from around the outbreak are vaccinated and allowed to live out their "normal" life. 30 days following vaccination, fresh meat produced from vaccinated cattle, sheep and goats, deboned and matured, can be marketed with a health stamp inside the EU. Pig meat may be refused for six months by Member States who wish to do so, otherwise heat treated pig meat products can be marketed within the EU. However, within the country itself, things are simpler. Article 58, once disentangled of its legalese, says provided that fresh meat is properly identified, contains no part that could harbour virus (Annex 8) and kept separately from unvaccinated meat, meat and milk can be sold freely inside and outside the vaccination zone.
    Milk has to be pasteurised or sterilised - which it already is.
    It should be added that an EU Discussion document (not online) from last October said:
      "...the OIE has recently stated in two letters that their own experts and those at the world reference laboratory, consider that there should be no reason to identify/label products from vaccinated animals, and that FMD vaccination does not differ from those vaccines already largely used against other diseases that may affect the same animals, without any adverse effect on consumers...."
      ".....correct, informative and trustworthy information must be communicated from everyone involved: scientists, veterinarians, government and national food safety authorities, farmers, industry, retailers, multinational food chains and consumer organisations."

September 17 ~ Misinformation about vaccinates

    It has been worrying to hear uninformed comment, about how vaccinated animals can get infected, being aired in the press and online. "One in five vaccinated animals carry and display signs of the disease" said a Surrey farmer - wholly erroneous information - but which is likely to be believed because it was on a BBC page on Saturday.
    Vaccination may not be a silver bullet - but it is very close to being one. Ruth Watkins has written for warmwell a careful explanation of vaccine and virus challenge. Dr Watkins' is one of most knowledgeable virologists in the UK on this subject. She now farms - not as a hobby but with absolute commitment - and her life outside the confines of the lab gives her a special perspective. Without attempting to gloss over the realities, she shows that the present vaccines are excellent:
      "The possession of protective neutralising antibody prior to infection changes the whole outcome if a vaccinated animal should be exposed to FMD. If a vaccinee should somehow come across the virus (which is unlikely in a vaccinated herd unless there is exposure to infected deer or fomites) it is either completely protected against infection ( the commonest case - which is why FMD vaccine is so good) or, if infection should occur, it would be limited and the animal does not become an infectious carrier." (see article)
    Delaying vaccination - holding on to see if we can manage without it for the sake of the livestock trade - did NOT work in August. Gambling yet again - when the animals infected in Egham had old lesions meaning that the virus could be incubating in other animals anywhere in the region of Egham or beyond - is inexplicable.
    Of course we must work on getting the EU's arcane and unfair rules changed but right now - vaccination works. It deprives the virus of the ability to spread - and FMD dies. The alternative of waiting and hoping - and killing - has been shown to be far, far worse. As we saw so often in 2001, the culling of livestock all together can terrify and stampede them - with the distressing and avoidable consequences of Saturday's miserable fiasco.

September 17 ~ Testing sheep ".. virus would be detectable by RT PCR for at least 4 - 6 days and possibly longer"

    Dr Colin Fink writes about an apparent reluctance within DEFRA to use RT-PCR to detect active virus in sheep because of the short viraemic phase..
      "This observation is based on previously growing the virus and when it grows - calling that the ' viraemic ' phase. Most of the virus will be coated with antibody after a few days and from then on will not grow in tissue culture , nor in fact in the host. However RT- PCR will pick it up for as long as the antibody complexed virus remains. This is likely to be for a few more days, so their discarding of the RT-PCR is a waste of the system and they would be well advised to continue to use it to see how long an infected animal does keep some of the virus RNA present. As there is a mucosal viraemia in sheep, I would suspect that virus would be detectable by RT PCR for at least 4 - 6 days and possibly longer. This observation is based on what we see and know about human disease involving RNA viruses of similar nature to F&M which we detect by RT- PCR.
      The specificity of RT- PCR is not in doubt. and if there is doubt in the system used in Pirbright I would say that the whole application needs to be revisited very swiftly indeed."

September 16 ~ "..Diagnostic techniques which Micropathology used 12 years ago have only just been adopted at Pirbright."

    Clive Aslet, writing today in the Sunday Telegraph:
      "...the cleverest scientists have gone with the money.
      "People like me were encouraged to go out into the private sector, which has become hi-tech," says the virologist and university lecturer Colin Fink, who started Micropathology. "Meanwhile, the public sector has been denuded of competency."
      Government departments such as Defra have made research a low priority. Their scientists, struggling along in laboratories that are in some cases old Nissen huts, speak a different language from cutting-edge private-sector counterparts. Diagnostic techniques which Micropathology used 12 years ago have only just been adopted at Pirbright.
      The state of Defra's research capabilities has huge implications. "Legislation now lags behind the science," says Caroline Cranbrook, a Suffolk farmer. "There is no reason that foot and mouth should be the calamity that it has become. It is not a killer disease. The consequences are barely noticeable in sheep, cattle do not die from it, and there are vaccines which can prevent them catching it. In the old days, it was difficult to tell vaccinated cattle from cattle who were suffering from the disease itself. This is no longer the case...."
    All true. What we must address now, and without delay, are the very real concerns felt by farmers who fear the consequences of vaccination. The EU Directive is at the heart of this problem. With great unfairness, the odds have been stacked against vaccination being acceptable to livestock farmers and it is this that we must address - after we have vaccinated. Warmwell has posed these four questions to various people knowlegeable about animal health, and about foot and mouth in particular. We shall be returning to this important subject often. Here too is definitive information on vaccines and virus challenge to vaccinated animals.

16th September ~ AT LAST. Foot and mouth: vets on standby to vaccinate

    We can only hope this is true. There is nothing (early Sunday morning) on the DEFRA site. However, Geoffrey Lean in the Independent on Sunday whose efforts in 2001 were so appreciated in making IOS so vocal in its support of rational and humane animal control, announces, "Specially trained teams will be standing by from tomorrow ready to vaccinate livestock against foot and mouth. The move marks an extraordinary government U-turn from the last outbreak six years ago....Defra is carrying out an investigation into the latest site to be infected, Stroude Farm near Egham, after finding evidence that it had had the disease for 10 days. It says the farmer should have reported it, but it was found only through official animal health checks..."
    "It says the farmer should have reported it, but it was found only through official animal health checks...." Of course, this too is an absurd attempt to deflect criticism. Animals that get a mild dose of disease and recover fast -as in these premises in Egham - are not only protected with antibodies from then on, but also show very little sign of disease and even the most conscientious farmer will not spot them with the eye. ProMed moderator comment:
      "[Detection of FMD-suspected animals is a professional undertaking. During an outbreak, frequent visits of veterinarians to farms around infected areas will probably enable early detection of disease. The discontinued activity of many district veterinary investigation centres in the UK, an unfortunate process which took place during the 80's, had devastative effect upon this vital surveillance system. This has been demonstrated during several animal-health events since, culminating during the 2001 FMD epizootic. Putting the blame on the farmer -- whatever his/her age may be -- seems to this moderator unfair. - Mod.AS]" ProMed
    Readers will be relieved at this news - as long as this is vaccination to live and as long as these "vaccinators" actually know what they're doing around animals. We hear that they practise on oranges.... As Lawrence Wright said below yesterday, it is absurd not to let the farmers, experienced in giving injections, the job of vaccinating.
    Getting the rules that are so unfair to farmers changed at EU and OIE level is the next challenge for us all.

16 September ~ EU anger at Pirbright is misplaced

    The Sunday Times (whose cartoon is horribly apt) reports that
      "Hilary Benn, the environment secretary, is facing fresh embarrassment after a senior European Union official said that biosecurity at the government site blamed for the foot and mouth outbreak was a "parody"...."
    The ST says that Alf-Eckbert Füssel, of the animal health unit at the European commission warned that Pirbright could be "struck off" - but this too is deflection of responsibility. EU Directive ~ Article 66 "Checks of laboratories and establishments handling live foot-and-mouth disease virus"
      "Veterinary experts from the Commission, in collaboration with the competent authorities of the Member States, shall carry out spot-checks to ascertain whether the security systems applied in the establishments and laboratories referred to in Parts A and B of Annex XI comply with the bio-security standards set out in Annex XII."
    When was the last check carried out by the EU Commission and why was Pirbright allowed to fall into such disrepair?

15 September, 2007~ Police presence and what the public do not see: confusion, terror and blood

    From the BBC News forums
      "Can someone tell me what is happening in Pyrford at the moment? I am not being allowed back to my home. The police say no more than it is the 'surveillance zone' but we understand that the cull which was meant to happen in the water meadows along Newark Lane yesterday was a complete disaster with cows being corralled together and then shot randomly, the result being the remaining animals panicked and bolted, and they are now loose in the countryside. I understand that the reason we're not allowed home is because there are DEFRA people wandering the fields, looking for cows, and shooting them on sight, so people are not allowed anywhere in the area for fear that they get shot by mistake.
      Neil, Pyrford"
    Added: Saturday, 15 September, 2007, 17:59 GMT 18:59 UK
      The News Editor of the Farmers Weekly: "In reply to Neil from Pyrford. Apparently, some cattle escaped the cull and got onto a public golf course. They were tracked and shot by marksmen from Surrey Constabulary who were working alongside animal health officers and vets."
    This is what we dreaded, those of us who knew what "culling" meant in 2001. We never believed it could happen again. And yet here we are in September 2007 - "bloody shambles" hardly sums it up. For God's sake, vaccinate.

September 15 ~ a "five day delay after a decision is taken to vaccinate because the "vaccinators" have to be away from susceptible livestock for five days before they can handle animals to be vaccinated" -utter confusion reigns

    DEFRA has said, it seems, that there must be this delay of five days before the vaccination teams (on stand-by) can move in "because the "vaccinators" have to be away from susceptible livestock for five days before they can handle animals" . This is simply nonsense. (More on this) The whole point of vaccination is that the vaccinated animals quickly become non-distributors. The teams would be vaccinating all the relevant animals on a farm. Vaccinators are not going to be the same personnel as those who visit farms to look for infected animals or take part in the culling procedures on the infected farms. And even if they were - wild, infectious virus - even if actually present on that very farm - even if on the boot of a vaccinator - would subsequently meet a dead end as long as the animals were vaccinated before challenged by the virus.
    It's hard to know what more one can say.
    As for sanity, Lawrence Wright from a sheep farm in Devon wrote just now:
      "What on earth is this about anyway? Practically any livestock keeper would be quite capable of administering a vaccination to their animals. If my vet were to advise me to vaccinate my animals, he would hand me the vaccine and a suitable syringe. Why would I need a team of outsiders to do the job I could do perfectly well myself?"
    Virtually all the relevant expert information is now on warmwell and can be found with the Search page if not on the vaccination pages - eg the most recent.
    There is enormous, terrifying, ignorance in the media and government ( who know no more than their advisors have cobbled together - usually wrongly).
    The frustration and the sadness at delay is almost unbearable. Vaccination should start on Monday.

September 15 ~ Another scapegoat?

    No one is any nearer , it seems, to understanding the sudden jump of the virus. Spread at Royal Egham Show is pretty well discounted reports the Times, and that we have heard independently - but there is much in the Times article that seems to make little sense.
    Who, for example, are the "experts" who are saying that vaccination is not needed since
      "experts now believe that even if tests show that the pigs were incubating the disease the risk of them releasing virus into the environment in a way that could contaminate other farms is very low."
    Infected pigs release many times more virus into the air. What is going on?
    Of grave concern too is that Valerie Elliott is suggesting that the farmer at Whitehall farm whose 800 pigs and 40 cattle were kiiled as a precautionary measure - and subsequently found to be infected -
      "missed the symptoms of foot-and-mouth disease in his cattle "
    and that this is "thought to be the most likely reason for the resurgence of the virus in Surrey"
    Hardly fair.
    Since DEFRA demands to be in full charge of animal disease control then it is DEFRA's job to carry out adequate testing. All farmers are going to be desperate to check their animals - and to imply that Mr Stroude was negligent because he is 77 seems extraordinary. But following this assumption that Mr Stroude ignored clinical signs we read:
      "Unaware of this, Government vets allowed the animal movement ban that was brought in after the August outbreak to be lifted last week and declared the country "disease-free"..."
    What is implied is that the government is not - of course- to blame. Many will undoubtedly find this sort of reporting despicable - and naturally wonder where this idea came from - but the government's ability to make up a scapegoat from thin air is what we saw in 2001. As the Telegraph says today, someone must take control of foot and mouth- "A sure sign that Defra knows it's in trouble is that it has battened down the hatches. It has given no press conferences, whereas it gave one a day in August when it thought it was doing well."
    UPDATE ProMed has this to say: "[Detection of FMD-suspected animals is a professional undertaking. During an outbreak, frequent visits of veterinarians to farms around infected areas will probably enable early detection of disease. The discontinued activity of many district veterinary investigation centres in the UK, an unfortunate process which took place during the 80's, had devastative effect upon this vital surveillance system. This has been demonstrated during several animal-health events since, culminating during the 2001 FMD epizootic. Putting the blame on the farmer -- whatever his/her age may be -- seems to this moderator unfair. - Mod.AS]" ProMed

September 15 ~BBC News 24 has announced more culling of pigs

    4.00 p.m. Pigs on another Surrey farm are to be killed "as a precaution". The DEFRA website says "This is a precautionary measure and follows inconclusive veterinary inspection of clinical signs. There is no timetable for when laboratory results from this premises will be received." No "timetable" for test results? Are tests being done and if so, one wonders why it is not possible to say when results are likely to be made public.

September 15 ~Movement to slaughter allowed from midnight

    As from midnight tonight (Saturday) movements of animals susceptible to Foot and Mouth Disease to slaughter will be permitted, under strict biosecurity conditions, from outside the Surveillance Zone in England, Chief Veterinary Officer Debby Reynolds announced today. A general licence will be issued that will allow:
  • Direct movements of cattle, sheep and pigs from farms to listed abattoirs;
  • Direct movements of cattle and sheep from farms to listed abattoirs via an approved collection centre or a slaughter market. DEFRA

September 15 ~ 1967 strain - characteristics

    The Times (below), in its one brief mention of vaccination and that it is not going to happen, reports that it is the view of "experts" that
      " even if tests show that the pigs were incubating the disease the risk of them releasing virus into the environment in a way that could contaminate other farms is very low."
    This raises the question of whether this strain really is the same as that in 1967. The 1968 Northumberland Report available on warmwell for 6 years now, was an excellent, succinct and scholarly report written in the plain English of unspun government. It was hardly mentioned in 2001 and has been pretty much ignored for forty years. Of the strain shared apparently by both the UK in 1967 and Surrey in 2007 it says:
      "Pigs were found to excrete a much larger amount of the virus than either cattle or sheep."More
      Let us create a vaccination zone in the South of England, regionalise and get the EU to rethink its Directive.

September 15 2007 ~ "Looking at the "new map" published by DEFRA, the protection zone (blue edged) appears to comprise 8 or 9 circles - one wonders if we are being told the full story by DEFRA"

    An emailer asks, " What are the 8/9 points represented by the centres of these circles, Why were they chosen? Do they represent farms/livestock holding with suspect animals?
    These are key questions, the answers to which would reveal the true scale of the current problem. Ruth Watkins' points regarding the protection zone are valid, therefore one wonders what DEFRA know or suspect." (Map)

September 15 ~ "Surely it is not beyond the wit of man and woman to create a vaccination zone in the South of England and try and return farming to near normality in the rest of Britain?"

    An email to warmwell from Dr Ruth Watkins, the virologist and farmer.
      "........ How very fortunate we are to have the possibility of the highly effective FMD O vaccine based on the very virus that is causing our present outbreak..... Surely it is not beyond the wit of man and woman to create a vaccination zone in the South of England and try and return farming to near normality in the rest of Britain?...
      It is much more dangerous to have full blown infections out there and their high potential for transmission."
    And as Dr Watkins says, the next slap in the face will be Bluetongue " we have heard nothing about it on the news whilst we bicker over FMD vaccination..." (See warmwell's Bluetongue page)

September 14/15 ~ If ever there was a moment to turn a challenge into an opportunity, surely this is it.

    Anne Perkins in the Guardian (6:30 PM Friday)
      ".......Their hardest call is a judgment about the cost of a six-month ban on meat exports from vaccinated animals against three months for infected ones. But it is a lot easier to make that call when culling has been tried and has failed.
      Defra has the vaccine (since its manufacture led to the outbreak). The experience of 2001 means it can muster the people to administer it. The farming lobbyists at the NFU say they are agnostic. If ever there was a moment to turn a challenge into an opportunity, surely this is it. .."
    The six month ban, as we say below, is not written in stone. It is certainly the time to challenge Article 61.

September 14/15 ~ New map -

    Repeating what Ruth Watkins asked below: "....what is the science behind choosing the perimeter of the protection zone and surveillance zone? I think it is limited to custom, common sense and EU recommendations and short on science, it assumes a point source. But should the veterinary infectious disease experts have exercised their discretion? If lorries went in various directions should they not have carried out a much wider surveillance...?"
    See defra page for the newest information the Ministry has put up - including the comment "We will not be able to confirm the full virus strain until all sequencing is completed. This is currently in progress"
    Click here for the updated map (large) showing the new zones and the proximity of Windsor and the Queen's parkland.

September 14/15 ~"It is a very grim outlook and especially for these welfare-friendly outdoor herds where they have higher costs...."

    EDP24 on the realities faced by farmers - and the despair that will lead many to give up. Farmers warn of exodus from industry
      ".......sheep breeder, Mrs Barber, added: "It is sad enough for our sector - selling rams, what the hills are going to do, I don't know. They cannot keep their product - their breeding ewes, their new lambs and store lambs. It is just a physical impossibility. It is just horrendous, it really is. You can't keep feeling, it is going to get better and I'm going to keep doing this. It is just around every corner, you get another slap in the face"
    The situation is indeed surreal. It is the decent farmers, those with "welfare friendly" pigs and the small hill farmers who are facing absolute hell. That it is also unnecessary is the worst thing of all.

September 14/15 ~ " the unions are urging the EU Commission and the respective Governments to support the development of a safe, inactivated vaccine against BTV 8 as quickly as possible"

    See Bluetongue page. And if for bluetongue why not foot and mouth? The stricken livestock farmers of Europe are asking for coordinated action for the quicker availability of the safest possible BTV vaccine. Unlike FMD vaccines which have for years been excellent, the vaccine for BTV-8 is still in the very final stages of development. Is it not ironic (indeed moronic) that the effective and proven vaccines for FMD are not being demanded by the loudest voices in British farming? But the loudest voices are drowning out the voices of those - as at Sheepdrove - who say, "...farmers producing food for the local market and UK - not exporting - are all stifled by Defra's trade control policies, which the NFU support."
    Once vaccination for Bluetongue is seen to be accepted in Europe the last strawlike barricades against vaccination will fall. Sooner would be far, far better than later. And toppling after them will come that demented clause in the EU Directive favouring non-vaccination or the obscene "vaccination to kill" Article 61.

September 14/15 ~ "If a sufficiently large spot-check show that there are no longer any viruses present, there is sufficient reason to lift the restrictions on trade.."

    In 2003, when the new Directive was being drafted, a wise amendment to Article 61 was proposed by the MEPs Reimer Böge, Elisabeth Jeggle and Albert Jan Maat- They suggested(pdf in new window) :
      Article 61, paragraph 1, point (b)(iii) changing 6 months to 3 months in order to gain parity for vaccination. They argued, "A period of three months is sufficient to obtain a sound result from the survey. The Commission should make every effort to ensure that this period is reduced from six to three months at OIE level too.....If examination of all ruminants and a sufficiently large spot-check in the case of pigs (vaccinated pigs cannot, after all, be carriers) show that there are no longer any viruses present, there is sufficient reason to lift the restrictions on trade. It is important to set down this possibility in the legislation in order to give those concerned enough security in taking decisions on the policy to be adopted in fighting the virus.."
    If this simple change had not been balked we should most certainly not be in this dreadful situation. The unions would be happy to vaccinate. The unfortunate escape from Pirbright would have been dealt with quietly and without bloodshed by vaccinating from the outside in - and there would have been an end. News 24 would not even have bothered to cover it. This is what the unions should now be arguing for - an acceptance of amendment 57 a grim four years after it was so wisely suggested.

September 14 ~ "DEFRA may soon be obliged to decide whether vaccination, probably around the disease foci, deserves consideration..." ProMed

    By "consideration", the moderator on ProMed today means "use". Unfortunately, the word does not mean the same to the "authorities". To them, ever since the EU committee's findings left the government so shaken, the word has become a cloak under which to prevaricate - as in "under review". The Moderator's comment was:
      "DEFRA may soon be obliged to decide whether vaccination, probably around the disease foci, deserves consideration. During the initial phase of the FMD outbreak in Surrey, on 7 Aug 2007, the government said "no decision has been taken on whether to vaccinate livestock, but 300 000 doses have been ordered from Merial -- to ensure it is ready if needed" (see ProMED-mail posting 20070807.2572). If the assembly of said batch was timely completed, vaccination may start immediately if the authorities decide to vaccinate."
    We are looking at a nasty situation that is getting nastier and could soon be out of hand and we fear the "authorities" have not yet got rid of lingering misunderstandings about the efficacy of vaccination. What is so blindingly and heartbreakingly obvious to those who have been working on this question for the past six years is, to the "authorities", still far from clear. It is time to listen to the real experts: the scientists who work with viruses and the producers of the vaccine.
    In a local paper for Reading,getreading.co.uk, Dr Tony Wilsmore, senior animal health expert at Reading University is quoted. Although DEFRA immediately reimposed the ban on the movement of livestock, Dr Wilsmore said the action was "probably too late to contain the case" and Berkshire farms could "very easily" already be infected with foot and mouth disease. And then what? In the words of the late Professor Fred Brown, the way we handled FMD last time was "a disgrace to humanity". His pleas were arrogantly rejected by those who had no ability to recognise his stature. There must be no repetition.

September 14 ~ ".... the courage to stand up to the establishment and never stop explaining why they were wrong"

    It is timely to remember Fred Brown. At the time of his death, Ruth Watkins wrote:
    "........One of the most outstanding qualities he showed in the FMD epidemic of 2001 I thought was the courage to stand up to the establishment and never stop explaining why they were wrong in what they did and point out how things should be done.
    So many scientists might stand back - particularly after being rebuffed publicly by the powers that be - and rage unquietly in the wings at the stupidity and folly of refusing to use vaccination and modern diagnostic techniques to combat an epidemic.
    Fred never backed away or down. His high sense of integrity prevented it when he knew how FMD might have been managed differently. Those wonderful tools that science, Fred's work so outstanding in its contribution to their development, had given us - were never used...."

September 14 ~ The Blogosphere wants ring vaccination - and the truth

    Tim Dodds writing his blog from Lightwater (see map) is again - as in August -uncomfortably close to the nastier action. He says today:
      "This foot and mouth outbreak will result in three things:
      1. Genuine and truthful exposure of the true cause, or many heads will roll
      2. Ring vaccination in any subsequent outbreaks
      3. Damage to Government credibility - they've escaped prior blame, not now methinks with comments like, "Puzzled" by Environment Minister, Hilary Benn"
      Lightwater Blog
    The doughty journalist Jonathan Miller, as always ( dieu soit loué) is singularly unimpressed by officialdom and makes a plea:
      "...Once again, those of us who have since the 2001 débâcle been demanding vaccination have been ignored. Once again, we have been proved right. Had Defra ring vaccinated immediately following the original outbreak this summer, the cows now infected in the shadow of Windsor Castle would not be infected....The only good news is that the Queen's pad at Windsor is in the middle of the control zone. She's a countrywoman at heart. Maybe she could have a word with Mr Brown and tell him to stop his ministers and their officials acting like such stupid cows. Go for it ma'am - we peasants are depending on you..."
    Sheepdrove asks the much needed question:
      "..why do the media insist on referring to the NFU as 'the farmers' and take their views to represent us all? Farmers producing food for the local market and UK - not exporting - are all stifled by Defra's trade control policies, which the NFU support. The meat trade is not all about export! That's why we say let us vaccinate."
    As we wrote on the vaccination page:
      "the logical conclusion of rejection of vaccination is the assumption that FMD infection is preferable - that shooting suspect animals in a pen where they can see each other die is better than protecting them.
      Ignorance about vaccination is precisely what allows the EU trade rules to persist.
    For a limited few hours, we reload our favourite bloggery cartoon

September 14 ~ News that the 2nd farm has tested positive. CVO says she is pleased the animals were killed before test results came through

    The Telegraph shows a sad picture of the dead pigs, lying huddled together, with the caption "slaughtered pigs are cleared away at Stroude Farm near Egham" Cleared away. Hmmm. This was the slaughter of 800 pigs and 40 cattle and it will not have been pretty. The mass "humane" killing of intelligent animals like pigs is, even in the best circumstances, kept well away from the public eye. It is hard even to contemplate the scenes on Thursday. Ring vaccination on August 5th or 6th would have avoided all this.
    Debby Reynolds is quoted as saying that "as control of disease was her main concern she was pleased that this farm had been 'Slaughtered on suspicion' before they had the test results which now confirmed the presence of FMD". So there we are. She is pleased and, to make this sound rational, constantly talks of her concern for control of disease. And on the grim fiasco goes and so pitifully few of us seem to be pointing out the elephant in the room.

September 14 ~"....lobby Brussels to change its ridiculous and protectionist rules.

    Simon Jenkins in today's Guardian " If they wish to prevent a contagious disease from escaping a district, they can combine to vaccinate all animals within range. That is literally their business, not a matter of national health or welfare. Nor is there any reason why the rest of the nation should be held to ransom - its country closed down, its entertainments cancelled and its pockets picked - for one group's commercial interest..."

September 14 ~ "...all too familiar stories of conflicting advice, bureaucratic buck-passing, ignorance of petty clipboard people, and of a disregard for the welfare of animals arising from either callousness or stupidity."

    Peter Ainsworth in the Telegraph says Defra has lost its last shred of credibility.
      "...Containment laboratories at the IAH are very old and are well short of the standards expected at an internationally important laboratory." Defra didn't need Spratt to tell them that. They knew already. For years, and especially since 2001, farmers have been subject to an oppressive government regime of inspection and penalties. If they get the smallest detail wrong, they get the book thrown at them. Yet when the Government fouls up, as they have done repeatedly, nobody seems to be responsible.
      ......why, when Professor Spratt recommends that "if identifying the source is considered a priority, an independent group" of experts should be convened to identify the source, does the Government reject the idea?... Could it possibly be that the answer might be inconvenient to a Government that is all too ready to impose orders, bans and regulations on others but is never there to take responsibility for its own mistakes?"
    It's hard to disagree with much of this - but far more important than worrying about the stable door is to care for the remaining horses. If the Conservative Party, of which Mr Ainsworth is a very acceptable face, were knowledgeable enough to be demanding emergency vaccination, the Queen's precious Jersey herd and other stock in the area could have been made safe by now - and we might be on the way to getting the irrational EU trade rules changed.

September 14 ~ Masking disease? What are FMD "carriers"?

    Within the first days following vaccination it is possible for cattle, sheep and goats to become what is termed 'sub-clinically infected' if they encounter wild virus. (All animals on a farm are vaccinated together and pigs do not become carriers in these circumstances). In such cases, where infection was caught in the first hours following vaccination and therefore before developing into disease, cattle may remain sub-clinically infected "carriers" for some years. Sheep and goats for 3-9 months. The vital point, though, is that after DECADES OF EXTENSIVE SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH, CARRIERS HAVE NEVER BEEN FOUND TO BE ABLE TO SPREAD FMD.
    With any sort of vaccination, if any host is successfully vaccinated , they may boost their antibody and white cell immunity by exposure to wild type virus but they will not become "carriers" in the sense implied by those who want to suggest that they can spread disease. They cannot excrete enough virus into the environment to do so during or after an emergency vaccination campaign - especially since all animals in the vicinity will have been vaccinated too. The whole basis of vaccination is to reduce virus within the environment and this is what it does. The virus cannot replicate. It ceases to exist. Disease spread is stopped in its tracks.
    Please read notes on transmission and spread written in 2001 by Keith Sumption (now Secretary, FAO European Commission for the Control of FMD -EUFMD Commission)

September 14 ~ "Serotypes included in these vaccines are to customer request"

    In October 2001, Emma Tennant wrote an article for the Spectator in which she said, "Even the relatively primitive vaccines available 40 years ago were effective enough to stop the disease spreading" - Now, a company such as Intervet can say: "Serotypes included in these vaccines are to customer request" and can provide a test kit for differentiating vaccinated from infected animals that "has been validated in three national reference laboratories".

September 14 2007 ~ How many farmers and vets want vaccination now? How many in 2001 who were ignored?

    In "Senseless Slaughter" Emma Tennant revealed that in April 2001 her MP, David Maclean, polled the Cumbrian farmers and vets in his constituency by fax.
      " Eighty per cent of the farmers and 95 per cent of the vets wanted 'vaccination to live' (i.e., without subsequent slaughter) as soon as possible. On 20 April the Cumberland News carried the headline 'Desperate Cumbria pleads with Blair to vaccinate now'...." It was too late. The Prime Minister, in what has been called a 'spineless dereliction of duty', had already cancelled the vaccination plan at the last moment. The NFU had twisted his arm, an act of supreme selfishness and stupidity which would not be forgiven by the politicians or the country at large..."
    David Maclean's results are here. Emma Tennant's full article, Senseless Slaughter, can still be read here and the anger and grief she expressed then still make one shudder at the callous policies that rode roughshod over so many peoples' lives: ".....propaganda said it didn't work, cost a fortune and would prolong the epidemic. Consumers, they said, would refuse to eat meat or milk from vaccinated animals. None of this was true. Because of their obsession with our FMD-free status, the NFU was prepared to hold the country to ransom to the tune of, so far, an estimated £20 billion - and all for the sake of exports worth £300 million per annum. ..." .

September 14 ~ "the EU have also made provision for member states to apply for derogations which allow vaccinated meat, milk, and products destined for the home market to be treated no differently from non-vaccinated product, once testing has been completed".

    A letter to the Telegraph last month from Janet Bayley, Co-ordinator National Foot & Mouth Group and DEFRA stakeholder:
      "As regards costs; as most animals would then be able to live out their economic lives, the costs of vaccination would be far less than the cost of slaughter, compensation, transportation and disposal. The only loss would be regarding the export market of live vaccinated animals and un-boned vaccinated meat...." Read letter

September 14 ~ Vaccinated meat and milk contain no trace of "vaccine"

    From the Food Standards Agency Their 2004 notice is overlooked by those who talk about consumer reluctance:
      "The Food Standards Agency..... satisfied that eating meat, milk or other produce from animals that have been treated with authorised foot and mouth disease vaccines would not have any implications for food safety. Nor did the FSA consider that there would be any need to label products derived from animals that have been vaccinated with the foot and mouth disease vaccine. .... the Government's independent expert committee, the Veterinary Products Committee, thoroughly assesses the safety of the vaccine to ensure that its use will not pose any threat to human health." Read in full
    And as we have said before, this is hardly surprising. The truth is that vaccinated meat has not one trace of "vaccine" in it. The immune system, having responded,destroys the natural viral protein in the vaccine by biodegrading it. As Ruth Watkins puts it, "The FMD vaccination is the injection of a very small amount of viral protein- it can be likened to a wasp sting- the substance injected is biodegradable, indeed it is biodegraded by the very cells that form the immune response. In the case of the viral protein a protective antibody response is formed." The Supermarkets should be crying out for vaccinated products when there is an epidemic of FMD. It is ludicrous to be troubled by vaccination when they quite disregard infection. There is no doubt at all that we consumed infected products during the 7 month epidemic in 2001 since unrecognised, acutely infected sheep were passing through abattoirs undetected for some time.

September 13 ~ The rules are absurd - It is this that the industry should be fighting.

    Article 61 of the (2003) EU Directive is what needs an urgent rethink. (To avoid pdf file, see europa.eu/scadplus )
      If vaccination has been used, Member States can recover their status if "at least three months have elapsed since the slaughter of the last vaccinated animal and serological surveillance has been carried out; at least six months have elapsed since the last outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease or the completion of emergency vaccination, whichever event occurred later."
    Can anyone, anywhere, explain the justification for this extra three months following vaccination to live? The despicable euphemism "suppressive" vaccination was used in the Netherlands in 2001 and farmers were sickened and appalled when they realised that it meant "vaccination followed by slaughter anyway". We have, on the vaccination page, refuted the "carriers" argument, we have refuted the nonsense about consumers rejecting "vaccinated" meat. There is no risk from vaccinated animals that justifies in any way this discrimination. It is this that the industry should be fighting - not vaccination itself - and there would undoubtedly be many in Europe who would be enthusiastic in their support for the removal of such an irrational and unscientific clause.

September 13 ~ Norfolk is in the clear

    At last some good news. " ....Defra announced this evening that pigs at the Hindolveston farm are clear of both foot and mouth and swine vesicular disease. The temporary control zone set up around the farm will now be lifted. " edp24
    The Perthshire sheep too, is negative. See FWi

September 13 ~ "It is just so miserable to watch the mess and the constant sins of omission. Where is the vaccine and a policy?"

    "The slaughter on suspicion case on the farm adjoining the IP may well become IP2. The cattle on this holding were adjacent to the infected cattle; on visual inspection one animal showed signs of disease and the decision was made. This holding does have a housed pig unit which is also being culled...." NPA's FMD Update 1500 hrs Thursday 13 Sept .
    Dr Colin Fink, evidently sharing the same desperate frustration as so many of us, writes "...No vaccine mentioned, just the usual mindless killing of course. Fred Landeg, that Page Street Guru of virology, at his intellectual best. ....All the talent in the high tech companies are ignored by the public service and it is in situations like this Foot and Mouth that you see the blind leading the blind from Page Street - and causing untold misery. They ignore even their own scientists from Pirbright and starve them of funds. It is just so miserable to watch the mess and the constant sins of omission. Where is the vaccine and a policy?"
    But let it not be said that DEFRA - apart from its abject failure to get on with that elephant in the room, the vital task of vaccinating - has not thought of everything else. If you want to move a "laboratory rodent within the Restricted Zone (excluding Protection Zone and Surveillance Zone), subject to the conditions set out in the Schedule of Conditions attached" then this page, not a joke alas, is for you..

September 13 2007 ~ "I believe they are also in the process of slaughtering at a neighbouring farm.."

    Farmers Weekly has interviewed the farmer in Egham, Rob Lawrence, at Hardwick Park Farm
      "..... farms alongside his wife Katie, has spent the past 25 years building up a herd of 150 Aberdeen Angus purebred and cross suckler cows .....are unsure whether they will restock.
      "I haven't got a business at the moment. After this, I don't think we will ever keep cattle again," he said.
      "The real tragedy, apart from the culling, is the fact that our two little boys' lives are going to change forever."
    Those who try to convince others that vaccination is not appropriate would be better advised lobbying against the discrimination at EU level that causes extended export bans. The poor Lawrences - and their neighbours, it seems - would undoubtedly have preferred vaccinated animals to dead ones. Even under those unjustified EU rules, if ring vaccination had been carried out on August 5th the Lawrences' animals would still be grazing peacefully. As it is the farmers right across Britain are now facing ruin and despair.
    Let's hope that people wise up to the realities of emergency vaccination and that its imminent use will be more than "considered" now. (See also Getting rid of FMD once and for all)

September 13 2007 ~ immunisation of livestock "being considered"

    BBC reports that Peter Kendall said this latest outbreak was "much worse" than last month's, because it has come at a time when livestock farmers need to move their animals, and send them to market and that he has spoken of "the real state of despair" amongst his members.
      ".....an emergency meeting of politicians, animal health experts and officials.......Prime Minister Gordon Brown is chairing the meeting - .... Hilary Benn said there was "absolutely no truth" in Conservative leader David Cameron's suggestion that the chief veterinary officer had been pressured to declare Britain clear of the disease too soon for economic reasons.
      He said immunisation of livestock was being considered.
      "We have put arrangements in place to be able to vaccinate if we thought that was the right thing to do," he said. ..."
    We can think of no valid reasons for this not being the right thing to do...Fast. See vaccination page.

September 13 2007 ~ "I would like to say one more thing- If infection via deer cannot be quickly ruled out we should vaccinate without further delay."

    All the virologists we know say the same thing: vaccination. Here is farmer and virologist Ruth Watkins in an email today,
      "In creating a vaccination zone it is to be hoped that the rest of the country can get back to some normality outside that zone or the South East of England relatively quickly....
      I think there is a duty of care the government must make to the rest of UKs farmers. It is not good enough for Gordon Brown to say sorry.
      We face ruin.
      When farmers take animals to the abattoir or a market for slaughter under the restrictions placed by the government, farmers are offered a lower price than normal, less pence per live weight kilo. They cannot take the animals home under the government regulations. Has the public seen the price of lamb fall at the supermarket?
      There is no compensation for livestock farmers. The feed prices are going up disproportionately and yet even the normal price for our product e.g.lamb is the same as it was 25 years ago. The number of livestock on the fields is the greatest during the whole year as we have our lambs ready for the seasonal market. What of rural Britain, with so many shows and country functions cancelled? So much business and enterprise facing financial ruin; I cannot think of what to compare the experience to for our urban compatriots."
    As we say on the vaccination page, "Vaccine should be used as a ring outside an infected area to limit virus replication and should be used in conjunction with restriction on animal movements and, if necessary, limited culling. No one is advocating random vaccination with no other containment measures. The idea is to preserve stocks, limit infection and use all the recourses mentioned to contain disease."

September 13 2007 ~ "What is the science behind choosing the perimeter of the protection zone and surveillance zone?"

    See full size here Among others, Geoffrey Whittle of Ranger Organics Ltd (Organic Beef), asks the pertinent question

      "Looking at the new Exclusion Zone, why is it that Pirbright is now not in this Zone? The virus, it appears, is still travelling from there?"
    In posing more interesting hypotheses about how the virus got from Pirbright to Egham, Dr Watkins writes, almost as an aside
      "....what is the science behind choosing the perimeter of the protection zone and surveillance zone? I think it is limited to custom, common sense and EU recommendations and short on science, it assumes a point source. But should the veterinary infectious disease experts have exercised their discretion?
      If lorries went in various directions should they not have carried out a much wider surveillance of sheep? What did they do about the soil removed from the site given that it was deemed to have been a source of infection?
    Read in full.
    As for the spread, she summarises, "... was there spread undetected along other routes the lorries took infecting a sheep for instance, or is this new infection from activites in relation to the soil directly or indirectly? In loose soil the virus could be buried out of the sun and kept cool and moist in discontinuous discrete lumps. (One of the reasons for the phenomenon that not everyone is infected who consumes a contaminated food is that the organism or toxin is not evenly mixed in the food). If this is found in retrospect to be so it shows they have not learnt all the lessons from 2001, when the infection was widespread in sheep, at least locally in Northumberland, before ever it surfaced in the Waugh's pig farm..." Read in full

September 13 2007 ~ It is the same strain

    The BBC, which seems to be DEFRA's main conduit of information, reveals that "Preliminary tests show the latest outbreak of foot-and-mouth involves the same strain as that which infected herds last month.." We await further news.
    Meanwhile, DEFRA has reintroduced a ban on movements of FMD susceptible animals throughout the British Isles. Licences are being reissued to permit:
    • Movements of dairy cattle across or along public highways for the purpose of milking
    • Movement of FMD susceptible animals for emergency veterinary treatment
    Animal Health (SVS) have been issued with instructions about movements of livestock from shows and marts to holdings. "Some very limited movements are necessary for immediate welfare and practical reasons where animals have been at markets or at shows . Movements and collections will only be permitted to take place in accordance with strict licensing conditions, in particular biosecurity measures . Similar arrangements are in place in Scotland and Wales," says Debby Reynolds. We hear that "In response to observations and suggestions during August, DEFRA is putting into effect a team to deal specifically with wider food chain issues." A teleconference with stakeholders to discuss meat, milk and other product production and trade issues apparently took place last night. We'd appreciate any information about this.

September 13 2007 ~ Is anyone still saying, "I think we would be in a much worse position if we had gone for a policy of ring vaccination"?

    The Farmers Weekly article on August 20th quoted spokesmen of what FWi called "farmers groups" Their anti-vaccination stance, based not on considerations of animal health and welfare but, as the BVA said, "its immediate economic consequences" seemed to have paid off in August. But the export ban is back. The economic consequences are looking disastrous. ( See also Vaccination page) Had emergency vaccination - which could, as we said below, have been completed within 24 hours - been carried out in Surrey we should not have been faced with the miserable situation that became clear yesterday.
    (~ We owe the NFU Scotland an apology Warmwell has just heard from NFU Scotland, putting the record straight and are very glad to see that there is no mention in the statement, used by the Scotsman, of there being no vaccines for bluetongue nor that culling is the only effective control measure.)
    (See Bluetongue page)

September 13 2007 ~ How can it possibly have happened?

    One virologist friend of warmwell says,
      " I disagree with Hugh Pennington about survival of the organism except in damp nooks and crannies, as the UV light still apparent in the South ( Aberdeen where he lives is probably rather greyer) will destroy the virus very quickly. It may survive in chalk stream water courses for some time although even these are probably too warm in the South to keep the virus for long. The peaty water of Scotland would wipe is out in no time."
    It seems we'll have to wait for the molecular typing of the virus to have attacked the Egham cows and also wait for any evidence for animal contacts to be confirmed (there have been rumours). Air borne transmission - except between one cow and another in a herd - seems highly unlikely. Meanwhile, Norm Coates in Australia has been poring over, on our behalf, what little evidence there is. See emails page

September 13 2007 ~ The possibility of sabotage must still be kept in mind.

    I wonder how many people are allowing themselves to think the unthinkable. We note that the Times today says, "Deliberate sabotage by an aggrieved worker or eco-terrorist remains a possibility. " But there is another view. All the speculation in the HSE and Spratt reports was, in the end, just that. Intelligent and informed guesswork about how the virus got from Pirbright to the farms nearby. But what of an earlier suggestion? And as we also said at the time, "Who does DEFRA expect to inspect wild deer and report symptoms and to whom? What is their plan for containing the spread of FMD in deer?" Virginia Water, the proximity of Windsor Great Park - the area is ideal for roaming deer. Another virologist sends this suggestion to DEFRA
      " It hasn't rained for a while so it would be worth sending out the naturalists / conservationists to collect deer faecal pellets between the original two farms and the third new farm infection. If there are scratching trees that deer scent mark it would be worth sampling these as well. .. At least a thousand different pellets should be picked up in plastic bags PCR could be done on extracts from groups of five pooled pellets for example with the option of returning individually to the original samples if a pellet pool tested positive. .... the properties of O1BFS 1860 FMD are probably different to the 2001 virus and it may be more infectious for deer, who of course may not be very ill with the infection and thus able to move a few miles."
    Read Ruth Watkins' suggestion to DEFRA in full
    UPDATE: We see from the Daily Mail that this possibility has already been taken seriously. The Queen was said to be "deeply concerned" after it emerged her farm at Windsor is just a few miles from the latest foot and mouth outbreak. More than 10,000 cows, pigs and hens kept in Windsor Great Park could be culled if the disease spreads..." ( Thanks for this link to FMD News - a service provided by the FMD Surveillance and Modeling Laboratory, University of California at Davis )

September 12 2007 ~ "The animals are being culled this afternoon"

    This has been repeated in various ways this afternoon but the reality of this "culling" is the most distressing aspect of a foot and mouth outbreak under the present contingency plan. There are ten parcels of land on the Surrey farm eight of which had animals on. At least 300 animals are being killed - and let no one think that this involves a quiet and gentle putting to sleep. The distress and terror of animals being killed within sight and smell of each other (which good abattoirs try to avoid) should not be forgotten among all the dry analysis of where the virus came from and how it got to Egham. And yet we have the means to get rid of these diseases. And Gordon Brown says, "We shall continue culling as necessary"
    About three weeks ago we published "Getting rid of FMD once and for all" which is an expert's view. As he said
      "....let's set a new mission for a Pirbright (and a Plum Island) of the future, with decent funding, a new facility and talented staff who have some assurance their work is valued. Let's protect the UK, US and everyone else - permanently - by eliminating foot and mouth as a threat to domestic livestock globally. We can control foot and mouth and the other major transboundary livestock disease threats in our lifetimes. No new technology is needed - just the vision, the will and the resources. ... we cannot build a wall high enough to keep disease out - we have to get rid of it where it lurks..... So will you and your many readers join me in asking the Prime Minister not to live with the threat of foot and mouth disease like all his predecessors, but to chart a bold new course and lead the international effort to get rid of this threat once and for all?"
    These were the words of Roger Breeze BVMS, PhD, MRCVS, CEO Centaur Science Group, a science consulting forum, Washington DC, USA, Formerly Director, Plum Island USA Department of Agriculture. This, along with our page on vaccination, should be read in full It's all very well asking for vigilance - but scare after scare about possible cases does not help. At Lanark today, where one sheep was suspected of having a disease that might be FMD, 1000 people and 700 sheep have been trapped at the Lawrie and Symington agricultural centre (See BBC). UPDATE From the Scotsman(Thurs) we learn that sanity prevailed when " .... the Scottish Government later granted a special licence to allow the sale to continue for the rest of the evening.." putting an end to the situation.

September 12 2007 ~ " It is ghastly for the farmers. Sales were just about to get going."

    "Now slaughter only will be allowed for a time again, just when we must move ewes shearlings ewe -lambs and rams - not to say cattle, heifers and store cattle to sales. The market has been giving farmers less for their animals, pence per live weight kilo, because they cannot take them home again. In Hexham the farmers went on strike and did not bring in their finished lambs." One farmer's view. We agree that it is disgraceful that farmers have been getting pitiful prices simply because it is known they cannot take their animals back to the farm.
    The Yorkshire Post says that farmers have criticised the Government for not keeping them up to date.
      "....Some whose cattle graze nearby said said they have been relying on television news reports for information. Andrew Parsons, of Smallwood Farm in nearby Chertsey, said he had driven to the area in an attempt to find out more. "We've heard nothing except what we've heard on the television," he said. "I'm really worried because I've got loads of pigs, a few cattle and horses and we were getting the pigs ready for slaughter tomorrow."
    We now know that the tests on a sick sheep at the Lawrie and Symington centre near Lanark, Lanarkshire have shown no presence of foot and mouth. It was a poor old ewe with bad teeth making her dribble.

September 12 2007 ~ Near Glasgow. A single sheep in the Lanark Agricultural Centre (or market) is being tested.

    Not confirmed. Also much talk in the media about the knock-on effects on the whole rural economy, hauliers and food prices. Not only has the price of wheat doubled in the past year but oil prices have reached a new high. Mortgages are seeing the ripples from the financial crisis and are at their highest for nine years. This is a cruel time to be facing yet another FMD crisis. It is also not the time to be relying on global markets for food. We need our farmers and safe, local food.
    Latest media reports: Farmers Guardian Movement ban in place
    Telegraph Tests confirm new foot and mouth outbreak
    Scotsman New foot and mouth case confirmed
    Reuters New foot and mouth case confirmed - or use Google for the latest news arranged in order of time received.
    The COBRA meeting finished at about 4p.m. that lasted half an hour and was chaired by Gordon Brown but no further decisions about control measures have been made. One remembers the remark that Gordon Brown was "within a hair's breadth" of ordering vaccination in August.
    (Now there is yet another temporary control zone imposed in Norfolk.)

September 12 2007 ~ Weybridge and Addleston - the home of VLA - are now in the circle.

    As well as being almost unbelievably cruel, the situation is seeming curiouser and curiouser... Can it be coincidence that the exclusion zone this time also contains government labs? And one is beginning to wonder about the properties of a virus strain that can jump from Pirbright to the VLA - if this is indeed the same strain (and we have passed the conservative maximum 30 days incubation time since the last confirmed case). A correspondent reminds us that it was (in 1967) highly unusual for animals infected by the original 1967 virus to "collapse" - as the owner of the 2nd IP at the last outbreak said his did. We know that Pirbright has been working with GM viruses, with possibly anthrax, which is very fast acting, virulent and causes collapse of the animal which is experimentally infected. This, together with questions raised in August about the curiously large number of animals found to be infected, rather than the more normal ripple of a few per cent through the herd, makes one wonder what now to expect of this virus. This farm, we now know, has several locations. Could DEFRA have missed an outbreak since the 7th of August?
    The EU was going to allow UK exports of meat and animals again today. Many abroad will be relieved that it was not. According to the OIE guideline, one ought to wait three months before the FMD free status is regained.
    This outbreak is just 6 km from Heathrow, where there is a lot of movement of vehicles and persons going on. What everyone is wondering is whether this is a new introduction or related to the outbreaks near Pirbright. That should be clear by now..

September 12 2007 ~ FMD confirmed at Egham and a movement ban is now in force throughout the country.

    COBRA is meeting at the end of the afternoon, which is after an emergency meeting at Defra that took place around noon. Confirmation of the FMD virus excludes the possibility that this is bluetongue.
    Powerful farming voices, arguing against emergency vaccination are almost certain to be heard today. Indeed, the microbiologist (but not FMD expert) Professor Hugh Pennington, used yet again as an "authority" by the media (Channel 4 news at midday), blandly repeated many of the same anti-vaccination statements that we had to refute in August and we reproduce them here, together with - (apologies to Hugh Pennington) - the responses of those who actually know what they are talking about.
    It is vital that people realise that vaccination against FMD works very well indeed and that vaccinated animals have not one jot of "vaccine" inside them when they enter the food chain. The vaccine, which can be likened to a bee sting, is biodegraded by the body straight away and produces the vital antibodies against the disease. And it is perfectly straightforward now, using the ABC test, to distinguish vaccinated from infected animals. Ignoring the huge advantages of vaccination is an unforgivable mistake. More Are we to see yet more of the UK's "wait and hope" approach, with all its miserable killing, before someone has the strength of will to insist on vaccination - and then to put pressure on the EU to change the daft rules?

September 12 2007 ~ FMD suspicion in 4-5 cattle - but the whole herd to be killed before testing proves presence of disease

    We hear that the farm is located where the M3 crosses over the M25. Debby Reynolds, in addition to the usual mantra about "biosecurity and vigilance" has said: "The containment and eradication of FMD is our top priority. This is why we have moved swiftly to put in place a Temporary Control Zone while we investigate this development."
    The suspect case is at Egham, in Surrey i.e. about 10 miles to the north of Pirbirght. Defra website
    It would be truly encouraging to believe that in the UK "containment and eradication" of foot and mouth were a top priority. Unfortunately, there is scant proof that this is so. If it were we should be seeing the use, (as we said below earlier this morning), of on-site testing " quickly before irreversible actions are taken" and then ring vaccination from the outside inwards of the "temporary control zone" farms should begin the moment that FMD is confirmed. In a sane world, where producers were not frightened of loss of markets simply as a result of protecting their animals, this would be so. The rules are not written in stone. They can and must be changed - so that this sort of knee-jerk killing ("...a pre-emptive slaughter of cattle has been ordered") with all the attendant angst for farmers in the area and beyond will cease. The EU's Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health, coincidentally still in session in Brussels, immediately halted plans to reopen Britain's meat export markets to the rest of Europe, the decision they had reached on Tuesday. Livestock farmers across the country will be feeling devastated.

September 12 2007 ~ ".. I also fear that solicitors may well be briefing barristers and life could become very expensive for the British government."

    This was the comment by a ProMed moderator in August
      "...it is understandable that farmers should wonder why so many constraints were imposed on them far from Surrey, though veterinary experience has again and again shown that such stoppages are very important. It is the old problem that if you do something, and nothing happens, the act is then questioned.
      ..... Farmer John Emerson voiced his frustration after it was confirmed the slaughtered animals were not infected: "When we 1st heard the herds next door to ours were infected we thought it was inevitable ours would get it too. But knowing now that my animals were never infected makes it worse."
      In the past -- that is, pre-1980 -- when we killed "contact" herds it was not questioned and laboratory techniques then could not have handled the volumes of samples. Today all that is different and thousands of samples are run each day. This brings home the point that the laboratory must move into the field and test animals quickly before irreversible actions are taken. (our emphasis)
      I also fear that solicitors may well be briefing barristers and life could become very expensive for the British government. - Mod.MHJ"
    The use of on-site diagnosis is vitally important. There are increasing rumblings of court cases over the Surrey outbreak. Perhaps this might bring home to the government that it is no longer acceptable to ignore the need for modern approaches to animal disease control and the modern technology available. Over the past fortnight, for example, Bluetongue has been gaining enormous ground in Northern Europe and is marching inexorably our way. Is surveillance any better now than it was when we wrote this about the limitations of depending merely on "vigilance"? It was the Director General of the OIE, Bernard Vallat himself, who recently said
      "the cost of preventing crises is insignificant compared to the social, economic and environmental cost of disasters resulting from epizootics, such as BSE, foot and mouth disease and highly pathogenic avian influenza."
    Bernard Vallat will be the guest speaker at the European Livestock Association (ELA) conference "Towards a Durable Global Animal Health Policy" at the European Parliament on October 17th. See ELA website for details and invitation.

September 11 ~ In North-Rhine/Westphalia alone there are now 2248 cases of Bluetongue

    See the figures up to yesterday. When one considers that this region is only part of Germany, the red dots on the map of North-Rhine Westphalia paint an alarming and depressing picture. Bluetongue is on the march and has now also been tentatively diagnosed in the US. The Bluetongue page is looking more and more important and may possibly be switched to warmwell's front page if Bluetongue arrives in the UK - which is looking almost inevitable.

September 11 ~ EU to carry out live virus safety check in labs across Europe

    Earthnews.org "The European Commission is to check laboratories which hold samples of the foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) virus across Europe in the wake of a British outbreak reportedly caused by such a facility, officials confirmed Tuesday. "The Commission will carry out inspections in (the UK's) Pirbright and other FMD laboratories across the EU over the coming months," an EC press release stated. At present, 13 facilities across the EU are authorized to hold stocks of the live FMD virus, EC officials told Deutsche Presse- Agentur dpa. Germany, France and Austria have two each, while Belgium, Denmark, Greece, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands and Britain each have one. In addition, four facilities - one each in Germany, France, the Netherlands and Britain - have been authorized to hold stocks of the live virus in order to produce vaccines, officials said. .."

September 11 ~ "IAH and its Governing Body are reassured that the investigations found no evidence that the Institute's laboratories are the source of the leak or that virus escaped from the Institute's laboratories, - and considered both to be unlikely."

    IAH's brief statement in response to the recent reports can be found at www.iah.bbsrc.ac.uk. Extract:
      " In the scenario suggested by the investigators to be the most likely cause of the outbreak, live virus has somehow entered the drains. This clearly means that all future biosecurity measures must take greater account of the integrity of the drains than hitherto. Following agreement with Defra and Merial, work on the Pirbright site has already begun to address this, including the completion of protective lining to the drains including the one implicated in the reports, and sealing of manhole covers. .."
    Merial, on the other hand, after saying that no biosecurity breach was found by the reports at its own more modern and well equipped site, makes no mention of the problems with virus disposal. The statement concentrates, not surprisingly, on the following:
      "Merial's FMD and bluetongue work at its Pirbright centre enables governments and farmers around the world to combat these potentially devastating diseases. As such, in consultation with the appropriate authorities, we look forward to returning to full production."
    See Merial statement . There were undoubtedly minor breaches of biosecurity at the IAH site as a result of years of underfunding. Merial's facilities were found to be good and the work done there is vital and urgently needed - but leakage of virus because of an unsatisfactory system of disposal almost certainly originated at Merial rather than at the IAH site. However, problems at the IAH site have, at last, been brought under the spotlight. Adequate funding for Pirbright must surely be forthcoming now so that the concerns mentioned in the reports can be properly addressed. It is vital that any level 4 containment lab should be the opposite of shabby, that morale should be high and that the best and most competent minds should be attracted there. The fact that IAH Pirbright deals with animal rather than human disease makes it no less important in its job of protecting the country and we need the very best expertise there that the country can afford.

September 10 ~ Defra also comes in for heavy criticism in its role as regulator, licenser and inspector

    Alistair Driver in the Farmers Guardian ....."HSE chief executive Geoffrey Podger said inspectors found the IAH had been 'complacent' about biosecurity on the site. The Spratt report referred to the 'poor state' of the IAH facilities and suggested adequate funding had not been made available for to improve safety work at the 'ageing facility'.
    Defra also comes in for heavy criticism in its role as regulator, licenser and inspector of the Pirbright site. Questions it now faces include why it allowed live virus to be deposited into drains, how it allowed the dispute between Merial and IAH to prevent necessary improvements to the drainage system taking place for four years and how its inspectors failed to spot the problems with the drainage system. ..."

September 10 ~ We need to support vaccination in the developing world in order to help ourselves.

    As with rabies, so with foot and mouth. Friday was the first "World Rabies Day" At least 45 countries across the world are holding events throughout September to raise awareness and build support from international organisations to help fund a vaccination programme.
    Sarah Cleaveland, from Edinburgh University's Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, working with Intervet is quoted in the Scotsman and says that trials in 160 villages in the Serengeti found that vaccinating 70 per cent of the dog population could halt the disease. (all species of animals infected with rabies there have been shown to have a variant of the disease that originated from the domestic dog.) Vaccinating each dog costs about 75 pence. The BBC also quotes Dr Cleaveland: "... it can cost 40% of an annual income to pay for post-exposure vaccination and hospital visits. It's estimated that in Africa and Asia almost eight million people a year receive costly post-exposure prophylaxis, yet the cost to eradicate rabies is comparatively small compared to other healthcare programmes."
    Rabies hurts those in Asia and Africa most - and so does Foot and Mouth. As Roger Breeze wrote a fortnight ago:
      "...The real anguish is felt mutely and without notice every day by poor farmers who are among the millions scratching desperately to survive with a few sheep, goats and cattle on marginal lands one step from becoming desert. For them foot and mouth means a life without animals and descent into abject poverty with a family that will go hungry, starve and even die." Read in full
    Vaccination is an incredible boon -and the reasons given for ignoring it make neither scientific nor economic sense. Even if one rejects the ethical reasons for helping those in countries far away, the only chance we have finally to remove the threat of the viruses that hit livestock in the West is to remove them as a problem for livestock and poor people in the developing world. As Dr Breeze says, "We can control foot and mouth and the other major transboundary livestock disease threats in our lifetimes. No new technology is needed - just the vision, the will and the resources. .... Only a few labs, and nations that you can count on one hand, are ever likely to contribute to such an effort, so if we don't do this no one else will.."

September 9/10 2007 ~ What was the work being done by Stabilitech at the time of the escaped 01 BFS1860 strain of foot and mouth virus?

    (Warmwell paragraph on Stabilitech here) We read in the HSE report:
      "Two Stabilitech researchers were involved in freeze-drying cultures of the O1 BFS strain in a laboratory within the main IAH facility. Freeze-driers are a known source of aerosol...the equipment did not have an in-line filter for vented gases, however, the line did pass through an oil sump before discharge into the room. ."
    Although the reports found no evidence of aerosol release in July they do not absoutely rule it out. In the 1960 outbreak at Pirbright, one farm 1.5Km away was infected by aerosol release via the ventilation system from infected animals in the Pirbright animal house. No exhaust air filtration system had been in place in 1960 but after that incident filtration units were installed in the vaccine production unit and animal compounds and later in all buildings where live virus was handled. The HSE report said,
      "We have concerns about the suitability of continued use of the upper south wing of the IAH laboratory, which is also used by Stabilitech for high containment work. In our view, it does not meet the requirement for SAPO 4( Category 4 Specified Animal Pathogens Order 1998) and we recommend that remedial work be carried out at the facility.
      We have concerns about filter arrangements throughout the IAH/Stabilitech facility where banks of HEPA filters are tested as a single unit leading to possible undetected failures..."

September 9/10 2007 ~ "Those who fund it are a disgrace. Pirbright should be a showcase and not such a dump."

    Comment from Australia. Norm Coates has been looking carefully at the reports. His overall conclusions include the comments: "I see very few formal/paved roads on the Pirbright site and lots of dirt roads - in this day and age?? Pirbright should be a showcase and not such a dump! The copse and elsewhere on the grounds should be landscaped with paths and rest areas for the workers not just an adjunct from when the place was established. All governments should be ashamed of themselves to allow such a mess to evolve! .."

September 9th 2007 ~"Gordon Brown is the person ultimately responsible for the FMD outbreak."

    writes Roger Sainsbury, ex DVO (bTb), Animal Health, Truro
      "As the Chancellor, it was he himself who restricted the cash available to all government departments, and that included the wholly government owned subsidiary of the IAH at Pirbright. So, the priorities changed. Instead of looking after the public interest first, control of the budget took priority.
      Now, public interest is really important - it's a phrase that seems to have gone out of fashion. It is readily forgotten that the food supply to the people of the UK is actually really important... and it is only available if other countries have surpluses to export - which could be a problem waiting in the wings.
      ... When I visited Pirbright a few years ago - to learn about notifiable disease - the whole culture of the place was biosecurity. It is so sad that they will get the blame when they are not really the real villains of the piece. They are totally committed to dealing with these dreadful diseases whever they are found in the world. Can't we place the blame where it should really be?"
    (Dr Sainsbury is a founder member of the Society of Veterinary Epidemiologists, with over 30 years experience within the State Veterinary Service, now rebranded "Animal Health". Read in full)

September 9 2007 ~ And on the question of the interconnected problems that threaten food...

    A fortnight ago, the Sunday Times published Goodbye beautiful Britain, by Richard Girling. An article that must be read in full, it warns that population growth, global warming and the energy gap may result in the landscape of the future being recognisable "only to geologists". He says ".Perhaps by then the UK government will have realised the importance of food security, an issue on which it has no policy at present" and he quotes Mark Hill, a partner in Deloitte
    "Given global tightening of supply and demand and the inflationary effect," said Hill, "nations relying on imports will be vulnerable."
    The article concludes:
      "...The government of Tony Blair showed little sign that it understood, or even cared about, the life of rural Britain. ... did its best to bankrupt farmers by delaying for over a year the single farm payments due to them under CAP reform and upon which their survival depended. It allowed the countryside to be cleansed of the schools, shops and post offices that are the essential building blocks of proper communities. It failed to understand that the best form of national defence is food security, or that the hills and vales of rural Britain had been thrown upon the mercy of global events. Whatever school of thought you belong to - GM proselytiser, organic idealist or defender of the status quo - it is difficult to be optimistic."
    Read the article

September 9 2007 ~ A virologist's view "I see that no virus has been recovered from the pipe or around FM1 manhole or the soil and that it is surmise that it leaked out into the soil."

    Those with specialist knowledge will be interested in thoughts by Ruth Watkins BSc Hons, MSc, MBBS, MRCP, MRCPath
      "..... I am still surprised that no aliquot is kept of the large vessel cultures before they are inactivated. Also that no validation or accurate estimate can be made at all of the amount of virus not inactivated by citric acid from the vaccine tissue culture debris. Though the temperature of the holding vessel is said to reach 60 no time is recorded for this or monitoring in a verifiable way mentioned.
      .... It might be interesting to sequence viruses obtained from the cattle with reference to the order in which they were deemed to have been infected based on the stage of the lesions especially to look at the earliest infections...." Read in full

September 8th 2007 ~ Journalism turns speculation into "confirmation"

    Although both the HSE and Spratt reports were careful to use words such as "likely", "could have" and "might have", and to avoid apportioning blame, for some journalists doubt must never be allowed to weaken dramatic impact. At least the BBC uses single quotation marks around its headline Leaking drains 'caused outbreak' but, in their official looking map, wrongly call Hunts Hill farm the "second infected farm" , whereas actually it was the SOS farm whose 362 animals were slaughtered even though all were healthy - to the grief of their owner.
    The Scotsman appears to be in no doubt about its 'facts': "... the outbreak was caused by cracked pipes belonging to the Institute for Animal Health (IAH) in Pirbright, Surrey. The original source of the virus was Merial Animal Health..... nearby building work had allowed it to spread."
    We read in the Telegraph that " It has been confirmed that the virus spilled from leaky pipes at the Defra facility at Pirbright." This is London talks of a "drain - which carries virus-contaminated waste".
    The Daily Mail finds much to dramatise:
      "....Unforgivably, the Government knew about problems with the pipe and drains but did nothing about them, even though the risks were glaringly obvious. And why not? The answer is truly breathtaking. It all comes down to a petty dispute between the IAH and the American firm Merial, which shares the site, over who should pay."
    The Guardian, in its snipe at DEFRA today, talks of "an invisible curse that can scythe through the rural economy on a building worker's boot" - but it does at least refrain from assuming guilt at Merial:
      "Fault, it seems, does not necessarily lie with the pharmaceutical company Merial, which has a plant at Pirbright, the source of the outbreak, and was initially seen as the most likely culprit. There is a chance that the crucial errors were instead made by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs' own Institute of Animal Health - where there was found to be less appreciation of risk, and where investments deemed necessary by a 2002 review had received only a slow drip of funding. The conclusions make it harder for ministers to convince when they pledge, as they did yesterday, to make sure the same sort of thing will not happen again."
    And one can only hope that one good thing to come from this accident - the source of which has not been definitively explained - may be that the 'slow drip of funding' for animal health soon becomes the urgently needed flow. The UK's "wait and hope" approach to animal disease control needs the input of experts who actually understand how disease is best controlled and who can deliver the tools. Zoonoses threaten everyone and a joined-up approach to disease control is vitally needed even when diseases like FMD and Bluetongue seem not to affect human health. We are all, in various ways, affected.

September 7 2007 ~ "exact origin of virus" - a further "critical experiment" would involve infecting a number of cows at Pirbright with foot and mouth.

    The HSE report: "..due to very small differences in the strains used at all three organisations at Pirbright, it has not been possible to pinpoint precisely through sequencing the exact origin of virus found in the infected animals at Normandy."
    However, the Spratt report ( Annex 4 Analysis of the sequences of the O1 BFS viruses) points out that the Merial virus (MER) that was sequenced was from their vaccine seed stock. But if the farms were infected because of Merial, it was most likely to have been virus from one of the 6,000 litre batches - not the seed stock virus that was sequenced. And " virus samples from the 6,000 litre batches were not available for sequencing as inactivation with BEI had taken place".
    The Spratt report, noting that the sequencing gave inconclusive results, recommends that "several further studies are needed to try and increase the confidence in conclusions that might be drawn from them" The report suggests that the most critical experiment would be to use IAH-M (the Institute strain sequenced) virus to infect a number of cattle
      " If the unique non-synonymous substitution present in IAH-M is never seen to revert to the consensus in cattle it indicates that there is not strong selection for this to occur. This would considerably strengthen the view that the reversion of this residue (which is required for IAH-M to be the outbreak virus) is a very unlikely event, and would make the Merial virus more likely to be the source of the outbreak. ..."
    There may be those who question whether such an experiment involving infected cattle is desirable - particularly before improved "funding, governance and risk management" take place at the Pirbright site - and especially since "given the near identity of the IAH-M and MER viruses, even with additional studies it may well not be possible to identify the source of the outbreak with a high degree of certainty". Ruth Watkins says, "I rather hope they will not do experiments on cows that will result in their death when the answer is only relevant to a court of law and probably won't be incontrovertible and unequivocal proof. There is no intrinsic scientific merit on the experiment." We agree.
    Responsibility for safety, in the future, should be clearly delineated between the research and the commercial parts of the site and with decent funding we hope never to hear again of such things as " critical state-of-the art diagnostics undertaken by PhD students at the very beginning of their research training - and not by experienced technical staff."

September 7 2007 ~ "..potential loss of public trust in a government laboratory due to incidents that are beyond their control "

    " It is not for the Review Group to apportion blame for the accidental release of FMDV"says the Spratt report, "but the relationship between IAH and Merial brings risks to both parties. These include the responsibility of what is essentially a government laboratory for elements of the biocontainment risks of a commercial company, the impact of a safety breakdown at one facility preventing work at the other, and the potential loss of public trust in a government laboratory due to incidents that are beyond their control. In future we believe that these risks should be avoided by each facility at Pirbright being entirely responsible for all aspects of their own safety."

September 7 2007 ~"...adequate funding has not been available to ensure the highest standards of safety for the work on FMDV" Spratt report

    "A review of funding, governance and risk management at the Pirbright site" is the sixth and last step that DEFRA says it will undertake as a response to the reports. (See news release) DEFRA's response to the reommendations can be seen here. Professor Spratt's investigation revealed that
      "The poor state of the IAH laboratories, and the effluent pipes, indicates that adequate funding has not been available to ensure the highest standards of safety for the work on FMDV carried out at this ageing facility.
      Adequate funding to ensure the safety of the important work on FMDV at IAH must be put in place until the new high containment laboratories are completed around 2012.
      ...There was evidence of a lack of urgency and ownership of risk at all levels, resulting in the failure to take appropriate decisions on the funding for essential improvements in safety critical infrastructure. This was particularly documented in the series of letters and reports from the biological safety officer of IAH in his attempts over four years to get agreement on funding for the replacement of the effluent pipes....Biosecurity of laboratories that work with FMDV is of paramount importance..."

September 7 2007 ~ HSE final report on 'potential breaches of biosecurity at the Pirbright site' No definite evidence but...

    From the HSE report:
      "....We judge it likely that waste water containing the live virus strain, having entered the drainage pipework, then leaked out and contaminated the surrounding soil. We also believe that excessive rainfall may have exacerbated the potential release from the drain..."
      ".......We worked with the Environment Agency to devise a strategy for taking soil samples from around manhole covers around the effluent drainage system and commissioned scientists from CSL to undertake testing to see whether traces of FMDV could be detected in the soil samples. ...... The work was carried out in a laboratory at IAH. The results were inconclusive......We have no direct evidence that there was an overflow from manhole FM1 releasing the O1 BFS strain over the period covered by our investigation... We found no evidence that the procedures and processes for undertaking preliminary chemical treatment at Merial were not undertaken according to Defra requirements........We consider it unlikely that aerosols containing the O1 BFS strain were released from the site's effluent drainage system during the period covered by our investigation.."
    As we thought, no trace of live virus was definitively taken from the suspect pipe - and our questions below remain - for the time being at least - unanswered.

September 7 2007 ~ The reports published today

September 7 2007 ~ The BBC understands that photographs of the pipe show clear signs of damage from tree roots and of some joints being misaligned.

    The reports have not yet been released (8.00 am) but the BBC says that "investigators have not identified a single point of failure allowing the foot-and-mouth virus to escape, but they have outlined a scenario for what they believe happened....The virus was present in the pipe, which is allowed under current rules governing animal viruses It was then flushed out of it during flooding at the site on 20 July ..... The investigators reportedly found records indicating that for several years there had been concerns about the state of the pipe, but that no repairs were carried out, possibly because funds were not made available...."
    It remains to be seen if there is actually any evidence to prove that live virus was present in the pipe on July 20 - or if all that is being reported at present is "scenario" not hard fact.

September 7 2007 ~"...You may have thought on August 4 that your world had fallen in, but that will be nothing compared to the day the public and press realise the food's running out. ..."

    Trenchant comment in the Farmers Guardian from Mike Keeble, a farmer and industry commentator from North Yorkshire.
      "...So Secretary of State hear this: your Department is wrong on nearly every count so far. Blame the Treasury if you must but it cannot go on... .. Food prices are rising and the productive capacity of your realm is dropping like a stone.
      You may have thought on August 4 that your world had fallen in, but that will be nothing compared to the day the public and press realise the food's running out. .... Hand power to those who know and understand for they can deliver a countryside that works and that does not mean one that is birdless, beeless or in any way contaminated."
    It is an article of power and passion - and a breath of fresh air. Read in full

September 6 2007 ~ Articles discussing the reports before they are officially released to the public have raised questions

    We find the following points interesting.
    • Several articles today imply that Merial is to blame by quoting Keith Plumb of the Institution of Chemical Engineers who said he was "surprised" Merial was apparently "allowed to transfer untreated effluent from its site to the IAH site" . But was the pipe carrying "untreated effluent"? Was it not that Merial does the chemical inactivation of waste and that IAH does the heat treatment to make assurance doubly sure?
    • Speculation about builders' car wheels is all very well (and unproven) but how could so many cows have succumbed to disease all in one go if that was the cause of spread from Pirbright? Tests apparently showed 39 of the Woolfords cattle positive for active disease - and this suggests a large dose. (See warmwell summary.) We are told that a high dose is needed if the virus is consumed rather than inhaled. Could this be possible from a contaminated car tyre that had already passed other premises?
    • Will the reports have anything to say about onward spread to the Woolfords farm? Will the stream be mentioned - and was its pH such as to allow the virus to survive?
    • Since we learned from Newsnight that 5 samples of virus - 2 from the Institute, 1 from Merial and 1 from each of the infected farms have now been sequenced in detail, it should be possible to say exactly which of the site viruses the farm virus most closely resembles.
    • Were actual traces of live virus found in and removed from the damaged pipe? If so, has it been possible, by sequencing, to compare the pipe sample with the farm virus samples?
    The reports will be looked at with great interest tomorrow.

September 6 2007 ~ The Government will publish an 'action plan' alongside its response to the reports

    The Farmers' Guardian reports that Lord Rooker says the reports have made several recommendations, at which "we will look at very seriously indeed". One cheering point from the Farmers Guardian is that Gordon Brown has apparently "pledged that the Government would do all it could to ensure there was no repeat" and if this means adequate funding for appropriate research and development it is good news. It was shocking to read that "flat funding during the past three years for the Reference Laboratories (ie a significant cut in real terms) has meant that key areas of work, including some critical state-of-the art diagnostics, has to be undertaken by PhD students at the very beginning of their research training - and not by experienced technical staff." ( See below) Will the "Action Plan" really detail practical ways to help the IAH regain its international stature?

September 6 2007 ~"....it looks like the end of this sad episode is in sight."

    Quoted in the New Zealand Farm News, David Raine, Chairman of the NSA: "Working to the assumption that the blood tests being undertaken on sheep in the surveillance zone return negative results, we can say that on Saturday September 8th normality will just about be back with the sheep industry as the major FMD related restrictions are lifted...... the prospect of operating a 20 day standstill through September with all the breeding sheep sales to take place was awful ....There are enough challenges to trade at the moment without having that to contend with that as well.
    The whole farming industry has acted in an incredibly responsible manner in response to this outbreak. A statement of recognition of that from government would be welcome at this time."

September 6 2007 ~ RPA "damning report today"

September 6 2007 ~ " From these sequences it should be possible to say exactly where the virus came from"

    BBC Newsnight ( transcript ) Susan Watts spoke to one of the authors of the final reports and he pointed out that the Institute has a modern animal isolation unit using up to date heat treatment to kill any virus. The rest of the institute site and Merial share a waste treatment system but both have chemical inactivation which should have killed the virus before it reached that central system.
      ".... So it appears there could be two failures here; failure to kill the virus and then failure in the Pirbright site's pipework Understanding how live virus got into the faulty pipe in the first place is key to establishing any blame.
      It shouldn't have. Dangerous viruses like this should be inactivated before they get anywhere near a drain. ...... The "we may never know" refrain was still out there today but scientists should be able to say a lot more about this. Newsnight understands that 5 samples of virus - 2 from the Institute, 1 from Merial and 1 from each of the infected farms have now been sequenced in detail. From these sequences it should be possible to say exactly where the virus came from."
    Read in full - and see also Independent "..... Peter Kendall, president of the National Farmers' Union, met with Gordon Brown and told him another outbreak should not be allowed to occur. "What I said to him, quite bluntly, was we must make sure the investment takes place to make sure this never ever happens again to the farming industry."

September 6 2007 ~ FoE survey highlights the environmental and business impacts of low prices paid to dairy farmers - and the value of local shops

    Friends of the Earth has carried out its own survey of embattled dairy farmers and says, "Despite evidence to the contrary, the Competition Commission cites a number of reasons for declining farm incomes and has not yet concluded that supermarket buying power is responsible." See survey in full. While prices paid to farmers have risen since the survey took place, the highest are still only equal to prices farmers received ten years ago and their costs are also rising sharply. (See also press release) Friends of the Earth is calling on the CC to appoint a watchdog to oversee the grocery market and to ensure fair trading between supermarkets and their suppliers. "The watchdog would proactively monitor relationships between retailers and their suppliersand would have the power to resolve any abuse of power by retailers." In addition this week Friends of the Earth has submitted 10,000 postcards signed by members of the public to the Competition Commission's Groceries Market Inquiry calling on the Commission to recognise the value of local shops. In a covering letter to Peter Freeman Friends of the Earth said that the high number of postcards is a strong indication of the importance of local shops to consumers and the high level of concern from the public about the possible weakening of the planning rules that currently restrict the development of out-of-town supermarkets.
    A further 3,000 electronic postcards were sent to the Commission by email.

September 5 2007 ~ Merial says it "cannot speculate on pipes or anything else".

    The BBC seems to have been handed a leaked copy of the HSE report which speculates that a
      "pipe, which runs from pharmaceutical firm Merial to a plant operated by a government-run lab, may have been damaged by tree roots"
    and that it was possible that "flooding pushed virus traces to the surface."
    The BBC adds that, "the HSE investigation did establish that contractors working at Pirbright at the time travelled to and from the site using a country road adjoining the farmland where the first outbreak was detected in August......The BBC understands that ongoing talks are taking place between Merial and the government about whose responsibility it is to maintain the pipe. There is also concern that worries about the condition of the pipe escaped the notice of government inspectors who licensed the laboratories. A broader investigation by leading scientist Professor Sir Brian Spratt has highlighted a lack of co-ordination in bio-security between Merial and the IAH. ....."
    On Friday, when the reports are published, things may - or may not - be clearer - but as we say below, Merial has, surely, already been cleared of any breach of 'biosecurity' by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate which conducted a thorough technical report on Merial's production facilities (see DEFRA website)"....The air handling pressures were found to be within specification and the laboratory is fit for purpose. There were no risks to biosecurity found. No possible release of virus is envisaged from turning antigen into finished vaccine and therefore there are no potential risks to biosecurity from manufacturing Defra's vaccine for possible use in this outbreak." .

September 5 2007 ~ American commitment to vaccine production

    Reuters reported in February this year that the American company Genvec had signed a new three-year contract with the Department of Homeland Security to support the development and manufacture of novel adenovector-based vaccines against foot and mouth disease. The "novelty" is that the vaccine uses another, harmless virus to transport a piece of the FMD virus into an animal's bloodstream to raise an immune response. The vaccine would be the first molecular-based foot and mouth disease vaccine for cattle produced in the United States. Today comes news of increased funding for Genvec's vaccine production from the DHS raising the total value of GenVec's three-year agreement from 15.2 million dollars to 17.5 million dollars. Under the terms of the agreement, GenVec would be responsible for the development, production and regulatory approval of the vaccine, while the Department of Homeland Security is responsible for conducting animal studies at Plum Island.
    As for Plum Island itself, according to the Easthampton Star and some other disgruntled comment from supporters of other contenders, it now appears to be in the running for the new federal biosecurity laboratory, the "National Agro- and Bio-Defense Facility", after all. The new facility is estimated to be going to cost at least 450 million dollars to build. Its future location is scheduled to be announced in October 2008. This sort of financial commitment looks impressive, particularly when we see such comment as that from IAH'sProfessor Shirley, below.

September 5 2007 ~ "The failure to definitely establish the source of the outbreak may mean that neither of the two laboratories on the site will be subject to negligence charges. ...".

    The Guardian's article today, predicting the substance of the reports that are still not publicly available, mentions the builders, the presence of which warmwell noted on August 6th. The Guardian says,
      "....The report may also criticise hygiene checks made on car tyres. It will also reopen the possibility that inadequate drainage pipes from the site may have led to a microscopic leak into the air, possibly caused by the flooding at the time.
      Gordon Brown met farmers' leaders yesterday to discuss the report and will publish it later this week, possibly on Friday. The failure to definitely establish the source of the outbreak may mean that neither of the two laboratories on the site will be subject to negligence charges."
    The government, says the Guardian, is likely to publish extensive correspondence relevant to the inquiry and its handling of the crisis "to prevent claims of a cover-up."

September 5 2007 ~ Underfunding is the whole point

    The Guardian article also highlights the concern of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council in 2002 that "The condition of much of the Pirbright laboratory site ... is unsatisfactory and there is a clear need for urgent investment ... There had clearly been an ongoing investment in existing facilities, yet one suspects that new build rather than renovation is the only serious policy for the future."
    Underfunding - of Pirbright, of research and development and the lack of a EU-wide coordinated policy for animal health - is very overdue the proper coverage it needs. As Pirbright's Professor Martin Shirley told the Science and Technology Select Committee very recently
      "Year on year, we are able to do less science or we are able to employ less people, and this is an area of work that spans from foot and mouth through to bluetongue virus...to other exotic pathogens which pose a threat to the UK. We are forced to look at this whole area of activity to see where we can juggle the research, so there is a risk that we will lose critical expertise."

Sept 4 2007 ~ "key areas of work, including some critical state-of-the art diagnostics, has to be undertaken by PhD students at the very beginning of their research training - and not by experienced technical staff."

    from page 185 of the same document ( Science and Technology Committee Fourth Report of Session 200607 Volume II Oral and written evidence Memorandum from the Institute for Animal Health) " In other cases (including work on exotic viruses at Pirbright) flat funding during the past three years for the Reference Laboratories (ie a significant cut in real terms) has meant that key areas of work, including some critical state-of-the art diagnostics, has to be undertaken by PhD students at the very beginning of their research training - and not by experienced technical staff."
    This is, surely, where the focus of the reports - and reporting on them - should be.

September 5 2007 ~ "efforts to develop a vaccine in time for this year's outbreak seem to have fallen short...."

    comments a ProMed moderator in the latest Bluetongue posting (see bluetongue page). We understand that inactivated and attenuated vaccines are already available but only under conditional or temporary licence. The widespread anxiety in areas hit by bluetongue brings into sharp relief the recommendations of the European Technology Platform for Global Animal Health Action Plan (pdf) July 2007 - who are concerned that
      "no single group has an overview to ensure an integrated and coordinated Research and Development (R&D) programme across Europe"
    Their Strategic Research Agenda (SRA) recommendation 12 states as its objective:
      "There is a rapid advance in new technologies and techniques which could be used to develop more effective tools for the control of priority diseases. These newly developed technologies should be reviewed regularly to assess their potential and to ensure that they are being used to maximum benefit. By evaluating the relative value of the individual technologies and their potential capacity for the development of vaccines, pharmaceuticals and diagnostics it will be possible to focus research in those areas which will provide the greatest benefits....... funding for innovation has a lower priority than appropriate, resulting in difficulties in filling knowledge gaps..."
    And their "high and immediate priority" is to "target research funding to those areas of fundamental science critical to the development of prioritised vaccines, pharmaceuticals and diagnostic tests."
    It is very encuraging to read in its Executive Summary that the Action Plan "is a flexible working document and will be subject to regular review and updating by the Steering Council of the ETPGAH to ensure that the SRA is on target and that the recommendations are being delivered."

September 4 2007 ~ No sign of the Pirbright reports being made public yet.

    Although the headline in the Sunday Times was "Lab Staff let Foot and Mouth get out" this article did not seem to have anything new to say to back such a vague allegation. It will be remembered that the Veterinary Medicines Directorate Report cleared Merial of any breach of 'biosecurity' (see DEFRA website): "The VMD have conducted a thorough technical report on Merial's production facilities.... A number of minor deficiencies in biosecurity were found but there was no evidence that they would lead to a breach of biosecurity arrangements Merial have recently begun using new facilities without giving VMD the opportunity to inspect that it is fit for purpose. However the relevant strain was not used in these facilities. The air handling pressures were found to be within specification and the laboratory is fit for purpose. There were no risks to biosecurity found. No possible release of virus is envisaged from turning antigen into finished vaccine and therefore there are no potential risks to biosecurity from manufacturing Defra's vaccine for possible use in this outbreak."
    Merial were at pains to say, "We ensure that the water we use in our virus production is treated. We then transfer it to the IAH who treat it further and release it." (See BBC)
    If the virus escaped into the stream, it might have played a part - but we are told that the virus is very sensitive to acidity in water. We read (New Zealand Veterinary Journal 50(2), 46-55, 2002) that "FMD virus is most stable at near-neutral pH and is sensitive to even mild acidity." The stream is likely to be neutral pH 7 but the geology is quite complicated about the river Wey (there is a clay area (neutral) and another area the upper greensand which is acid). The pH of the stream would depend on the soil. No doubt all this has been considered in the various reports.
    (UPDATE - we have been informed that the Environment Agency were not asked to check the pH of any river, stream, surface water or sewer in any grid square within or adjacent to Grid SU 924507 - so one wonders if anyone has.)
    DEFRA is expected to publish the reports some time this week.

September 4 2007 ~ "We're going to see strains of influenza that are capable of causing pandemics arising, probably avian strains, and that will happen for sure, there's no doubt about it."

    Although the current observation remains that H5N1 is not readily transmitted among humans, the recently published research done at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle which found statistical evidence of human-to-human transmission in Sumatra has given cause for concern. More on the H5N1 page.

September 3 2007 ~ "... many farmers and crofters with relatively small flocks will decide to get rid of their sheep rather than endure the hassle that comes with a new system."

    "Livestock farmers are seriously feeling the pinch..." Dan Buglass in today's Scotsman casts a lack-lustre eye over the consequences of the hydra-like CAP - which is now costing in the region of £30 billion each year. Now that the sheep tagging derogation has run out, every single British sheep will need to be individually identified for official, centralised scrutiny. Dan Buglass reminds us of life before the CAP when, after advice, the minister of agriculture would fix a basic guaranteed price for the various commodities, making up the difference if necessary by a deficiency payment within a budget. "It was simple and it worked. It also provided the nation with relatively cheap food...."
    There is a connection between Dan Buglass' article and the concern of this website about disease control. The stranglehold of ever-increasing bureaucracy, regulation, and identification - having as its apparent motive a concern for animal and human health - is causing many small farmers to give up in despair. Meanwhile, animal health policies are powerfully influenced by those who never get mud on their shoes, never see sick and dying animals and have little understanding of the science of disease control. Agribusiness seems unaware that if we continue to ignore the science, the animals that the exporters are so keen should remain unvaccinated will be dead, and the farmers who supply them will have gone out of business, taking their generations of expertise with them.
    (See also today's Herald which quotes Professor Shucksmith, Chair of the committee of inquiry into crofting: "..we need to understand now what will be the consequences of the rapid decline in sheep numbers. If the common grazings are being abandoned, the character of the land will change. The internationally valued environment will change over time. The decline in communal working at sheep, meanwhile, will change the nature of the communities." ......."

September 3 2007 ~ We are dependent on the trading world for sustenance.... regular supplies of food and fuel from overseas.

    One is constantly reminded of the warnings of James Lovelock, written before the price of wheat doubled, before the sub-prime lending crisis led to disrupted global financial markets, written before the decline of Mexico's enormous oilfield Cantarell became known:
      "It is said that we have no more than 15-50 days' grain stocks in store at any one time....Unfortunately our nation is now so urbanised as to be like a large city and we have only a small acreage of agriculture and forestry. We are dependent on the trading world for sustenance.... regular supplies of food and fuel from overseas. .."
    But these regular supplies are looking ever more fragile. We need our farmers.
    See also Melanie Reid's "pastoral tale of greed and short-termism" in The Times today. "Suddenly, out of the blue, panic. There isn't enough milk on the world market to go round......We spend billions keeping Trident as a domestic insurance policy against global war, but we do nothing to protect a primary food source against the risk of global shortage. When that shortage comes, we will be defenceless. The farms are gone, sold largely to the monied classes as places to play at being squire. In 1995, the UK was 87 per cent self-sufficient in products that could be grown here. Now the figure is heading fast towards 60 per cent. You cannot restore the dairy industry overnight by turning on a tap...."

September 3 2007 ~ "How much funding has the UK government put into EU collaboration - or indeed wider international collaboration - directed at producing BTV vaccines that are relevant and promptly available?

    Or do they simply leave such matters to market forces, whilst proclaiming their devout interest in animal health and welfare?" This was a question asked by James Irvine on Land Care.org.uk in April . With farmers in Northern Europe now clamouring for protection for their animals, the question of mutual support, help and collaboration is ever more relevant. It seems mere common sense that a coordinated Europe wide plan for research into disease control be properly funded.
    Unfortunately, the same powerful voices in the UK and Europe that decry vaccination are still at it. It was a dreadful mistake ever to allow vaccination to be regarded as justification for a trade barrier. The mutually beneficial effects of vaccination in our globalised world must be pointed out and reflected in trade rules.
    In spite of the less than lukewarm messages coming from EU governments, the vaccine manufacturers have an understanding of the reality of the situation. As Dr Carolin Schumacher, of Merial ( says here) "In Europe it is now expected that BTV8 is here to stay. This may result in significant economic losses for livestock farming, animal trade and exports. Since the start of BTV work in 2003, MERIAL has developed substantial expertise, modern vaccine technology, production sites and a fully dedicated Veterinary Public Health Team working on BTV solutions to support the Veterinary Services of infected countries in responding to major Bluetongue virus outbreaks."

September 3 2007 ~ "... This policy would eventually lead to the eradication of BTV from affected areas."

    From last month's European Technology Platform for Global Animal Health Action Plan (pdf) Annex 5 Bluetongue Gap Analysis Extract:
      ....vaccine availability (globally) Attenuated virus vaccines are cheap, easy to produce and are administered in a single dose. Potent, purified inactivated bluetongue vaccines achieve similar efficacy while non-purified inactivated vaccines usually require two or more injections to achieve similar results. Modern inactivated vaccines are better controlled for extraneous agents and safer, but not available for all serotypes. Both vaccine types, if used according to label instructions, are very effective in controlling clinical outbreaks of bluetongue in areas of endemic disease and in the face of outbreaks.
      Commercial vaccine authorised in Europe Conditional: Inactivated and attenuated vaccines under conditional/temporary license....
      Effectiveness of vaccines Live attenuated and purified inactivated vaccines are effective and provide long lasting immunity with a single dose (in sheep)
      Non-purified inactivated or recombinant vaccines need two injections to afford protection.
      Commercial potential for vaccines in Europe Inactivated vaccines offer significant advantages over attenuated vaccines because absence of replicating virus eliminates concerns about viraemia, vector transmission and reversion to virulence
      Recent recombinant DNA technology has provided novel approaches to developing safe vaccines. This technology offers advantages both in terms of safety and the potential of developing a marker vaccine. The latter could be used as a prophylaxis in areas at risk, without endangering the "free" status of the region. An accompanying serological test would allow the distinction between vaccinated and infected animals.
      DNA recombinant technology involves the synthesis of immunogenic proteins and particles that elicit highly protective immune responses. Naked DNA vaccines may have a similar potential....."
    The Action Plan is very much worth reading in full even without specialist knowledge. One wonders how many of those who direct policy in the various countries of the EU, including our own, have any real understanding of the difference, for example, between an "attenuated" vaccine and an "inactivated" vaccine. The experts who do, can only, as Dr Irvine above implies, carry out the necessary research if adequate EU funding and collaboration reflect the urgency of the situation. Only then can we hope that, to use the language of the ETPGAH Action Plan:
      "... With a high efficacy and safety, vaccination could be extended to all ruminant species in order to stop transmission of the virus. This policy would eventually lead to the eradication of BTV from affected areas."

Sunday 2 September 2007 ~ Benefits of using NSP-free vaccines for foot and mouth (i.e in combination with the 3ABC test):

    The updated Intervet website shows the advantages of using their Chekit-FMD-3ABC as opposed to conventional test kits i.e. VN, VP1ELISA The considerable advantages are that one can demonstrate if antibodies are caused by infection (3ABC positive) rather than after vaccination (3ABC negative) in serum or plasma samples. The test provides a rapid, simple, sensitive and specific method for detecting antibodies and can be done in any laboratory capable of ELISA testing. It picks up all serotypes of FMD - the test strain does not have to be the same as the field strain. Because it doesn't need high containment facilities it is an ideal test for general screening (eg border control and screening in risk situations). Benefits of the marker system are
    1. Eradication of infected herds and the protection of non-infected herds in countries where FMD is endemic.
    2. Vaccination can be used to reduce virus circulation, authorities are still capable of monitoring the spread of the FMD virus.
    3. Massive preventive culling of healthy animals is no longer necessary, culling reduced to infected farms. 
    4. Animals from vaccinated farms not carrying antibodies against the 3ABC protein, do not present a risk for further spread of the disease and can enter the food chain.
    5. The 3ABC marker system allows vaccination of valuable animals (breeding stock, rare breeds, game parks, zoos) without hampering Government disease control schemes.    
    The intervet site gives links to further information(pdf) and a graphic Powerpoint illustration of the assay procedure using the Checkit FMD-3ABC.
    (Many thanks to Anne Lambourn for alerting us to this information)

September 2 2007 ~ Human error likely cause - but the Pirbright reports are not public yet.

    Reports by the Health and Safety Executive and by Professor Brian Spratt were handed to the government late last week. The HSE interim report (see below) said that the chances of an escape via the wind carrying the virus or by flooding were negligible. No evidence was found, in that initial report, that there had been breakdowns in the filters but "lines of enquiry" were being pursued with regard to pipework and structure. Human error - the inadvertent carrying of contaminated material between the site and the farm may possibly have taken place and the virus might have found its way to the second farm by means of the stream. The interim HSE report found no major gap in security. We feel that the new reports are unlikely to make any important new statements when the reports are finally made public.

31 August 2007 ~ Burges Salmon advises caution over FMD compensation claims

    Farming UK.com quotes William Neville
      ".... It is understandable that those affected will look for compensation. However, it is basic English law that compensation for financial loss cannot be obtained unless there has also been damage to property. Unlike in 2001, only two farms have been subjected to slaughter. At this stage, there would appear to be no more than a faint possibility of general claims for financial losses, especially as the factual situation at Pirbright remains unclear and no responsibility, by either Merial or the Institute for Animal Health, has been established."
    Although Burges Salmon is advising farmers to keep comprehensive records of any losses and expenditure as a result of restrictions imposed by the Surrey outbreak, William Neville is a lawyer highly experienced in these matters as we saw in 2001 when, as we remember with gratitude, he gave the necessary advice that one must not confuse justice with the law. It is looking rather unlikely that the various reports and investigations (see Farmers Guardian) are going to reach any conclusions about liability - and it is the law, not necessarily justice, that will decide on compensation.

30/31 August 2007 ~ Depending on "vigilance" - Bluetongue

    There was no mention of vaccination, sampling or surveillance when Debby Reynolds spoke today about the Bluetongue threat on Farming Today She said of BTV-8 that
      "..not only has it overwintered, it has started to spread in quite an alarming way ..the risk is low but it has clearly heightened...whilst we can stop imports or test imported animals what we cannot do is prevent the vector, the midge, blowing across the Channel."
    When she was asked about whether her statement about "monitoring the wind carefully" meant that there would be sampling to see if midges were in the air she said,
      "No we're not. We are using the Meteorological Office tracking of wind and we are simply reflecting that as a risk in particular areas. We are clearly depending on what has been the very good vigilance of farmers ..."
    Culling would be appropriate "on a pretty tiny scale if we think we've caught it early enough" and she was at pains to say that culling would not be one of the control measures - rather there would be large "control areas" one or two of which ".. could encompass large tracts of the country".
    Dr Reynolds said that the new plan had been developed in partnership with the "core group of veterinary stakeholders".
    However, she was not even asked about possible future vaccination nor why testing is not happening immediately in the areas of the UK nearest to outbreaks across the Channel. Either the resources are simply not there to carry out adequate surveillance and testing or else the "core group of veterinary stakeholders" do not think such surveillance is necessary. The 'wait and hope' approach would appear to be, as for other disease threats, the first step of our current policy for Bluetongue.

30/31 August 2007 ~ Sheep vaccination for FMD

    We have been reminded that in Uruguay, almost 11 million cattle were vaccinated whilst the 12 million sheep grazing beside them were not - yet this was enough to eradicate the disease (See bvs.panaftosa.org ) - and this is quite true. It is very common not to vaccinate sheep in countries with more knowledge of FMD than the UK - such as Uruguay - and in those countries whose porous borders make FMD incursions such a depressingly common occurrence. But in the UK the situation is rather different and people still want to know more about the science that DEFRA says "underpins" its approach. Owners of rare sheep and sheep farmers who would very much wish their animals to be protected - especially if the alternative is slaughter - deserve to be told the scientific rationale for excluding sheep from vaccination plans. It is a matter of trust.

30 August 2007 ~ Sheep respond very well to vaccination. So why is DEFRA not including them in any vaccination policy?

    Where sheep are involved in an outbreak of FMD it is well known that they may remain undiagnosed until after the disease has spread. This could have devastating consequences - as it most certainly did in the UK in 2001. We read in Emergency vaccination of sheep against foot-and-mouth disease: protection against disease and reduction in contact transmission Cox et al, Vaccine 17 (1999) 1858 -1868 that ".. highly potent emergency vaccines can reduce virus replication in the oropharynx, consequently decreasing virus excretion, and thereby limiting the transmission of the disease to susceptible non-vaccinated sheep." (Although the chance of vaccinated sheep actually meeting unvaccinated ones is remote in real life, something that seems rarely to be pointed out by researchers. See Notes on Transmission "...People who argue that vaccination does not prevent transmission are not considering the farm based nature of European control..").
    Similarly, in the 2004 paper,Evidence that high potency foot-and-mouth disease vaccine inhibits local virus replication and prevents the 'carrier' state in sheep Barnett et al, Vaccine 22 (2004) 1221 - 1232 the conclusion is that
      "...all of the vaccinated sheep, regardless of antigen payload, were protected against clinical disease and development of viraemia. Virological and serological results confirmed that there had been no local virus replication in the oropharynx of sheep from the high potency vaccine group in contrast to moderate or substantial virus replication in the oropharynx of the low potency vaccinated or unvaccinated sheep respectively....."
    If our information is correct, and DEFRA does not intend to include sheep in any vaccination policy, it is to be hoped that there are those prepared to ask, "Why not?"

Thursday 30 August 2007 ~ "No microbiology lab can be made totally secure"

    The Financial Times yesterday:
      "... Research into dangerous germs is essential if humanity is to defend itself against infectious disease - and that means accepting a small risk that a pathogen will be released accidentally (or even deliberately, by a malicious researcher). No microbiology lab can be made totally secure. And of course the precautions must be ccidentally (or even deliberately, by a malicious researcher). No microbiology lab can be made totally secure. And of course the precautions must be appropriate to the risk - excessive security can stifle research...... The Pirbright biosafety reviews will be judged not only by their technical content but also by their openness. Commercial and scientific interests must not trump transparency..."
    Professor Spratt is expected to deliver his report into the biosecurity arrangements both Pirbright sites very soon. It is already a relief to many, in European areas hit by Bluetongue for example, that Merial says it has been given the green-light to resume the manufacture of vaccine from stored, inactivated antigens.

29/30 August 2007 ~ News round-up. No mention of the v-word at the BBC, Canada foresees mass slaughter for FMD, and the Guardian's irritation at farmers "stealing the show" .

    The Barrie Examiner quotes a regional director with the Ontario Federation of Agriculture as saying, "If foot and mouth disease were to show up in Canada, half the country's cattle would be destroyed.." Can he really be unaware that FMD can be controlled with rapid diagnosis and by efficient vaccines as in Uruguay in 2001? Foot and Mouth seems to have become demonised like a sort of mystery disease from outer space against which there can be no hope. Fallacies are refuted here - but still, apparently, go widely unchallenged. (We were therefore encouraged by Jonathan Miller's energetic comments on the microbiologybytes.wordpress.com FMD entry)
    Peter Hetherington in Wednesday's Guardian , irritated by the fuss over the Surrey FMD outbreak, has much blame to direct at farmers - "a privileged lot" - for diverting money from aid for run-down rural areas. "Farmers like to think they are the saviours of the countryside," he complains, but as Huw Rowlands, a pro-vaccination farmer from Cheshire , wrote during the crisis, a distinction really must be made:
      "Agriculture is family farms firmly based in and contributing to the rural economy. Agri-business means intensive production aimed at producing cheap food for sale by rapacious supermarkets whose overwhelming concern is to maximise profits no matter what the cost to anyone or anything else."
    The BBC's Pallab Ghosh praised Debby Reynolds because "it was her insistence on sticking to the plan and being led by the science that won the confidence of the farming community." One wonders which branch of science he feels led the policy of wait and hope in Surrey. No mention at all was made of FMD vaccination and why it is rejected by the big unions. It is as if the modern technology to deal with disease did not exist - and that journalists who write with such apparent assurance about foot and mouth visit us from a different century - or planet.

Wednesday 29 August 2007 ~ Vaccination a "catastrophe"? Only if looked at through the wrong end of the economic telescope

    The Scottish Farmer this week quotes the technical adviser to the Association of Independent Meat Suppliers, Stephen Lomax:
      "With the outbreak apparently controlled, people are consigning all this to the past - but I don't want to do that till we have highlighted the weakness of vaccination policy....Gordon Brown was "within a hair's breadth" of ordering vaccinations ... if he had, it would have meant economic catastrophe..."
    It is important to remember that those like Mr Lomax have little interest in the control of the disease itself but only the effect it has on profits. This is normal and understandable. But the weakness and the catastrophe lie not with vaccination itself. The evidence is now so solid that the vaccines are excellent, the differential tests so good and the ability to detect disease on-site so advanced that no one now attempts seriously to argue with the fact that vaccination can protect an area from foot and mouth. Any suggestion that it "masks the disease", betrays ignorance of the effect of vaccines on animals - as explained here by the expert virologist, Colin Fink. The real weakness is the extra three month penalty that the EU/OIE rules still place on vaccination - making it a disastrously second-best choice for exporters.
    We notice that DEFRA's latest vaccination page fails to explain that the EU makes provision for Member States to apply for derogations which allow vaccinated meat, milk, and products destined for the home market to be treated no differently from non-vaccinated ones after testing has been completed. It implies that vaccinated product cannot be sold as "fresh meat" at all until FMD free status is regained. This is a misleading final paragraph to their explanation of why emergency vaccination was not used in Surrey.
    But it is the out-of-date discrimination against FMD vaccination itself that is the catastrophe that must be challenged - especially when its irrationality is so starkly illustrated by the EU's response to the Bluetongue threat.

Wednesday 29 August 2007 ~ The European commission is willing to fund 50 percent of the costs of a bluetongue vaccination campaign

    We read on ProMed last week some very interesting discussion on BTv vaccination indicating that "... vaccination is a key tool to prevent the virus from spreading into hitherto uninfected areas. It seems that the European commission is willing to fund 50 percent of the costs of a vaccination campaign.."
    Seven years is a long time when globalised movement means animal disease spreads so far and so fast. This Commission document from the year 2000 says,
      "..... The procedure for bluetongue virus vaccine production is similar to that for the production of foot and mouth disease vaccine. European vaccine producers could easily adapt to the production of inactivated bluetongue virus vaccine. The resulting product would be both produced and stored under internationally accredited GLP conditions."
    Seven years ago the situation was such that the authors, having warned that a non-vaccination policy could lead to "the risk that BTV causes considerable economical losses in sheep and that the virus becomes endemic in the area for as long as the climate remains favourable", went on to write, "the market for a recombinant or an inactivated BTV vaccine is likely to be small, and may not be an economic proposition for a commercial company..."
    Now that inactivated BTV8 vaccine is so desperately needed - though safe and developed on a small scale - it is not yet available. Thus the latest DEFRA policy on Bluetongue: " No BTV vaccine currently has a marketing authority from the Veterinary Medicines Directorate for use in the United Kingdom."
    No suggestion of second best here - just dismay. The almost unbearable irony is that excellent FMD vaccines are available - but rejected as "catastrophic" by an ignorance that is as scandalous as it is powerful. And because of such reluctance - research and development of vital new vaccines against such new threats as Bluetongue have not been fast enough - not "an economic proposition". And our German farmer friend - right in the middle of the bluetongue crisis - writes: "21st century and still so much suffering. I can't believe it.". Cases in Germany now stand at 968 and the collection of dead stock cannot keep up.

Wednesday 29 August 2007 ~ An online alternative to supermarkets - ready for producer sign-up.

    The International Herald Tribune gives the bad news: rising prices for milk, bread, potatoes and meat, a situation made worse by the FMD outbreak :
      ".....Financial advisory firm Deloitte said Tuesday that meat prices will have to rise to support the domestic industry, which it suggested was close to "breaking point." "A combination of factors is threatening the survival of the U.K. livestock industry," said Richard Crane, food and agriculture partner at Deloitte. "The rising price of wheat and soft commodities are compounding the negative impact of foot and mouth on the U.K. to a much greater extent."
    There is some good news, however. Localfoodshop.com is about to be operational. It is an online farmers' market, owned by the producer members. 93% of the purchase price goes directly to the producers - far more than anyone gets from the supermarkets. The website is inviting producers, (who need no IT skills), to sign up (pdf) and for potential customers to register in order to find local suppliers. These suppliers will team up for deliveries to save on food miles.

Tuesday 28 August 2007 ~ The EU Commission will be required to detail the risk assessment procedures that it has carried out.

    Neil Parish was recently quoted in thisiscornwall.co.uk: "The European Union can break a country into regions when an outbreak occurs to avoid a total ban on the entire country; but this regionalisation policy cannot apply to Brazil because we have no idea whether the beef is being smuggled from one region to another, or even across Brazil's long border."
    The European Parliament recently heard evidence from the Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) and the Farmers' Journal, which launched a joint investigation into Brazilian beef. The IFA had visited 42 cattle farms in Brazil and claimed that traceability on the farms was usually "conjured up" just a few days before slaughter. Their report concluded that none of the 15 farms on which an in-depth study was carried out had a full traceability system. An EU Food and Veterinary office report in 2006 highlighted concerns that ear tagging and medicines, banned in the EU, are used in Brazil and the situation had not improved since 2003.
    Today, an article in Independent says that a complaint has been lodged about "Brazil's raging FMD problem" and the EU ombudsman is to investigate the EU Commission "over its failure to act on several Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) reports on the low to non-existent standards prevalent in the Brazilian beef industry."
    The United States, Australia, Japan and South Korea ban Brazilian beef. The President of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association ( ICMSA), Jackie Cahill, is quoted: " By allowing the continuation of beef imports from Brazil, the European Commission is breaching, or ignoring, EU law with regard to standards. And, by ignoring well-established and internationally acceptable risk assessment regarding animal health, particularly FMD, the Commission is involved in maladministration....The critical point, as far as ICMSA is concerned, is that the Commission will, for the first time, be required to detail the risk assessment procedures that it has carried out. It will not be able to hide behind WTO rules, because the US and Australian bans are totally compatible with those rules.... we see the Commission demanding a standard of safety from the British government regarding its latest outbreak that they seem to have no intention of applying to Brazil."

Monday August 27 2007 ~ "....with luck, they will today at last be on the road"

    Yesterday's Booker Column in the Sunday Telegraph tells the story of the plight of an English couple and their pedigree goats marooned behind a padlocked fence outside the Bulgarian border - because of the FMD virus escape that happened after they left the UK.
      ".... their situation seemed desperate. They were fast running out of special food for the goats and gas for the cooker and fridge in their motorhome. Daily temperatures in the compound where they had been confined by the Bulgarian authorities were over 100 degrees. No one could tell them when, if ever, they might be allowed to proceed.
      ....On Thursday, just as we were having to contemplate the possibility that the perfectly healthy goats might have to be put down, I heard ...that the Cypriot authorities had the previous day relented. The kids were free to move. Later on Thursday morning Brussels followed suit by lifting its animal movement ban.
      There had to be a final twist to the tale..." Read in full
    DEFRA said it was powerless to help. The Commission "offered little hope" . Imposed regulations were considered far more important than a frightening ordeal - the situation seems only to have been resolved by something happening behind the scenes. Animal Health policy should not be like this.

Monday August 27 2007 ~ "the connection between EU biofuel targets and killing orang-outans"

    An alarming story in Private Eye warns that the EU decision that by 2020 10 percent of all transport fuel in the EU must be sourced from carbon-friendly biofuels, such as wheat, would require the UK to grow 14 million tons of wheat a year, 3 million tons more than we grow now...Even if we derive our biofuel from other crops, this would still take up more farmland than we have currently in production.
      "We would thus have to import 10 million tons a year to meet our food needs, at a time when soaring world demand will have pushed prices through the roof. The only alternative will be to import biofuel from abroad, from countries such as Indonesia, already destroying its rainforest on a colossal scale to make palm oil, leading inter alia to a massacre of orang-outans."
    Private Eye points out the the BBC concentrates on the ending of set-aside "... the listeners don't realise how much of the real story they are not being told."

Monday August 27 2007 ~ Concern about H5N1 and Bluetongue continues to grow

    For those interested, warmwell is now updating the pages on both Bluetongue and Bird Flu as often as possible again (this is time-consuming. Please check back if the update is late). As with FMD, our aim is to keep abreast of the latest developments in vaccines and rapid diagnosis. The wait and kill policies for H5N1 are sickening and we worry that Bluetongue is taking a firm hold in Northern Europe. Both pose a very real threat in the UK and the EU - and we worry that policies to cope with them may be adversly affected by recent events at Pirbright. As Roger Breeze says below,
      "...the long and arduous efforts to build defenses cannot be sustained by popular interest and clamor among the very groups they are designed to protect. They must be built and sustained by vision and leadership - and over the generations.
      Compounding the problems of showing the daily relevance and importance of Pirbright and Plum Island in a cacophony of other competing governmental budgetary demands is the parochial nature of the mission set for these labs by their political masters. They exist to provide an insurance policy that should a dangerous animal disease strike, the country would have the scientific resources to support diagnosis and control by vaccination or other means...."
    Now is NOT the time to further weaken Pirbright and Merial.

Monday August 27 2007 ~ Someone in England is trying to export banned animal feed into Indonesia

    The Jakarta Post reports, "Customs and excise officers at Tanjung Priok Port in Indonesia foiled an attempt Friday to smuggle banned animal feeds into Indonesia from England. Officers accused importer PT TMW of fabricating documents to get the 112 containers of animal feeds past customs..." . Apparently, the importation documents said that the containers contained bird food but when the contents were examined in the laboratory they were found to contain meat and bone meal.
    It is impressive that Indonesia was able to detect and confiscate this material. We note below that the UK is reported to have just 100 staff and 11 sniffer dogs to detect illegal meat products.

August 2007 ~"Will you join me in asking the Prime Minister .. to chart a bold new course and lead the international effort to get rid of this threat"bird food" once and for all? "

    Roger Breeze writes "Will you and your many readers join me in asking the Prime Minister not to live with the threat of foot and mouth disease like all his predecessors, but to chart a bold new course and lead the international effort to get rid of this threat once and for all? " In an article, Foot and Mouth again: Will Gordon Brown rise to the occasion? , pointing out the excellence of Pirbright and making a plea for the future, he says,
      ".... One might naïvely have expected that since 2001 the many would have pressed for increased government resources so that Pirbright could lead efforts to make sure such a debacle never occurred again. ..... But if you don't expect anything you are never disappointed, so it was with a sense of sadness at the predictability of human behavior and the shortness of modern memory, not disappointment, that I have heard those who should have known much much better question whether either the laboratory or the vaccine plant were needed anymore in today's world......self-interest compels most to go for the threat closest at hand. Sadly, the livestock industry trade groups that have the loudest voices are particularly susceptible to prioritizing such diseases of the month. ...... Compounding the problems of showing the daily relevance and importance of Pirbright and Plum Island in a cacophony of other competing governmental budgetary demands is the parochial nature of the mission set for these labs by their political masters....
      .... We can control foot and mouth and the other major transboundary livestock disease threats in our lifetimes. No new technology is needed - just the vision, the will and the resources. .."
    Read the article in full (new window)
    (For a reminder of the way effective technologies to fight FMD have been ignored see this 2005 warmwell posting .)

Saturday August 25 2007 ~ New Zealand's gesture of good will

    Daily Post "New Zealand lamb producers have taken the extraordinary step of suspending UK marketing activities out of sympathy for British farmers. The Kiwis - traditionally fierce rivals - will not undertake any promotional activity until next February to allow the UK lamb sector to recover from the foot-and-mouth outbreak..."

Saturday August 25 2007 ~The UK employs 100 staff and 11 sniffer dogs to detect illegal meat products.

    Australia employs 75 detector dog teams, 64 X-ray machines, on-the-spot fines and stiff prison sentences. In Australia there are some 50 prosecutions each year for smuggling animal products. Last year in the UK there was one. The Yorkshire Post quotes Jim Paice: "....We know there is technology available on trial but the Government won't use it. It allows them to X-ray suitcases at the point of departure and sends the images to the UK. By the time people arrive, the images of illegal meat will have been seen. But that technology is not being tried out."

Friday 24 August 2007 ~ Bluetongue - on the march in Northern Europe. The German Government says, " At the moment culling doesn't take place...nevertheless..."

    Charles Clover in the Telegraph yesterday wrote, "reports of new outbreaks which are coming in at more than 100 cases a day" This confirms what we have heard from other sources. Somewhat alarming too is the update on the German Government's BT website which translated says,
      "At the moment culling of infected animals (except for welfare reasons) doesn't take place, this is agreed upon with the EU and member states as it would not have an impact on the current course of disease. Nevertheless there are, in the long term, considerations about future measures dealing with animals found to be virus positive. .."
    In the UK , a "Revised Bluetongue control strategy" is published by DEFRA, explaining to editors that the ".. Industry working group is comprised of (sic) senior individuals from the following organisations:
    • British Cattle Veterinary Society
    • British Meat Processors Association
    • National Beef Association
    • National Farmers Union
    • National Sheep Association
    • Livestock Auctioneers Association
    • Sheep Veterinary Society"
    The press release speaks of ".. rigorous measures to keep disease out of the UK and contain any outbreaks." It would be reassuring to know that science and veterinary input to the Bluetongue working group is providing information that takes into consideration more than the immediate needs of what Dr Breeze (above) refers to as "the livestock industry trade groups that have the loudest voices". (Belgium has just reported to the OIE 80 dead sheep because of BTV-8)

22 August 2007 ~ The EU should be lobbied to point out that discrimination against vaccination has no justification.

    We note that the National Beef Association, the NBA, today quotes its Director, Kim Heyward:
      ".... government must not sit back and congratulate itself on avoiding a complete disaster and instead address the more difficult task of making sure similar escapes cannot happen again.....Whatever the outcome of a review on developments at the Institute of Animal Health it is abundantly clear that government must either decide, as others in the EU already have done, that it can no longer risk FMD virus manufacture in a livestock producing country that is so dependent on export markets or throw a mountain of money at making sure the premises are escape proof...."
    The NBA would like to see the end of vaccine production in the UK - but it would be a national tragedy if Pirbright, with all its experience and expertise, were further hampered by this latest incident. If swiftly vaccinating animals from the perimeter inwards (it could have been done within 24 hours) had been as acceptable as the "wait and kill" policy, then this small localised outbreak would have been dealt with fast and efficiently, without the killing of Mr Emerson's uninfected animals and without the media circus. (See also Private Eye)
    Few would now doubt that it is the EU imposed extra three month wait that causes the powerful unions such as the BVA, NFU and NPA to reject vaccination. In spite of overwhelming evidence that vaccination is the humane, rapid and effective way to control outbreaks of foot and mouth, the use of emergency vaccination means an end to FMD-free status for six months - whereas the reinstatement of full FMD-free status is permitted within three months if the killing of animals, infected or not, is used to "stamp out" infection.
    It is not the end of vaccine production in the UK that we should be lobbying for. The powerful and the interested should be doing their utmost to point out to the EU Commission that this extra three month wait is threatening the food security of Member States. It has no justification now that the old arguments against vaccination have been so effectively overcome by modern differentiating vaccines and rapid on-site diagnosis.

22 August 2007 ~ ".. Investigations into effluent released onto the site and subsequent contamination of personnel, equipment or vehicles, and other fomite transmission routes off the Pirbright site continue..."

    Epidemiological Report for August 17: Extract : Hypotheses for source
    "...investigations into the potential breaches of biosecurity at the Pirbright site are in progress;.... Results are pending but might reveal the origin of the outbreak (research laboratory or vaccine manufacturer) and whether IP2 became infected as a result of spread from IP1 or from a common source......The virus may have reached one or both of the IPs either directly from the Pirbright site or by onward transmission of infection from another source, itself infected either directly or indirectly from the Pirbright site.
    .... Investigations into the possibility of aerosol transmission from the Pirbright site and spread via the sewer to IP 1 have provided little evidence for these means of transmission. Investigations into effluent released onto the site and subsequent contamination of personnel, equipment or vehicles, and other fomite transmission routes off the Pirbright site continue.... 25.....additional investigations have been carried out to identify all holdings where susceptible stock may have had assess to the water downstream of the IPs and the Pirbright site......"
    (Some fear that if, as seems possible, IAH Pirbright is sued for negligence by the NFU, the taxpayer will cover the cost of compensation demanded by the NFU's court case, Pirbright's funding - vital for research - will subsequently be cut even more disastrously, and the small farmers who actually want to protect their animals will be rather worse off than before.)

22 August 2007 ~ "biosecurity issues associated with FMDV strain O1BFS67" - Richard Lissack QC has been chosen by the NFU to fight for a multi-million pound compensation package

    The Farmers Guardian reports, "Legal teams mobilised after the Health and Safety Executive inquiry into the outbreak said that there was a 'strong possibility' that the virus originated from the Government licensed Pirbright research laboratories.
    Experts say that a good case will be developed if is proved that the virus escaped Pirbright through negligent behaviour..."

August 21/ 22 2007 ~ "...costs of vaccination are far less than the cost of slaughter, compensation and disposal."

    We note an excellent, succinct letter in the Telegraph (Monday) from the Co-ordinator of the National Foot and Mouth Group, Janet Bayley. She pointed out a common misconception: "...When faced with an outbreak of foot and mouth disease it is emergency protective vaccination, close to the centres of disease, that is proposed, not year-on-year widespread prophylactic vaccination ." The letter is well worth reading in full.

Tuesday 21 August 2007 ~ "Our aim is to regionalise as soon as the situation allows."

    We read ( e.g. Yahoo.com) that the UK is hoping that the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health (SCOFCAH) will agree to "regionalise" the EU export ban, as we described here yesterday, so that only the Surrey surveillance and protection zones continue to be regarded as "high risk".
    The veterinary expert panel meets in Brussels on Thursday. If such zoning is agreed to then the rest of the UK will regain its low risk status. Such zoning would mean that meat and dairy produce (but not yet livestock) could be exported again. Yahoo quotes Philip Tod, the spokesman for Markos Kyprianou. Of Thursday's meeting, Mr Tod said, "We expect to discuss the scope of high-risk and low-risk zones. Our aim is to regionalise as soon as the situation allows." See UPDATE below

Tuesday 21 August ~ Patrick Holden and CIWF continue to argue for vaccination

    The Farmers Weekly article is called "Opinion is divided over vaccination dilemma" - but fails to point out that the two opposing opinions are arguing from completely different standpoints. The "farmers' groups" who, says FWi, "do not support the use of vaccination as the first line of defence", are arguing from a purely financial stance. The Tenant Farmers Association spokemen, David Catlow of the BVA and Holstein UK present only arguments that have as their basis the EU export ban.
    It is at least interesting that those who stand to lose money because of the trade rules as they stand, do at least seem no longer to be arguing that there is any scientific or veterinary reason to avoid the use of vaccination.
    The Soil Association and Compassion in World Farming are looking at the issue from a veterinary and ethical standpoint. As we have said before, the arguments of both sides of the "dilemma" might more usefully be directed at the protectionism of the EU trade rules. Such rules rely on people; they are not set in stone. It is time to challenge the out-of-date attitude towards vaccination on which they rest. (See also our latest vaccination page)

Monday, August 20 2007 ~ "area can be treated as an epidemiologically separate zone for international trade purposes"

    The OIE Code, even as it stands, now provides a country suffering a small localised outbreak such as the UK this month, with a let out so that it can continue trading. The Code sets out clearly the sequence of steps to be taken in establishing a zone/compartment and having it recognised for international trade purposes.
      "....there may be benefits to a Member Country in establishing and maintaining a subpopulation with a distinct health status within its territory. ..
      ...Following a disease outbreak, the use of compartmentalisation may allow a Member Country to take advantage of epidemiological links among subpopulations or common practices relating to biosecurity, despite diverse geographical locations, to facilitate disease control and/or the continuation of trade. ." (See the relevant part of the Code.)
    A ProMed moderator today says,
      "...The formulation of specific movement conditions for "bovines around the time of calving (and their calves)" to be applied "throughout England, with the exception of the Protection and Surveillance Zones in Surrey," bestows upon these animals, in fact, a status which is somewhat compatible with a "subpopulation." The definition of "subpopulation" in OIE's Terrestrial Animal Health Code is "a distinct part of a population identifiable according to specific common animal health characteristics." It will be interesting to follow this trend in view of the new concept of compartmentalization in the Code."
    The sub-text of this seems pretty clear; in view of the continuing difficult restrictions forced on the rest of the country, it would indeed be very interesting to know if those driving UK policy this month are considering zoning.

    UPDATE SCoFCAH received unanimous support from all Member States for the Commission's draft decision to limit the restrictions to the surveillance zone in Surrey. DEFRA reported (23 Aug) "Restrictions on exports from Great Britain of meat, meat products and dairy products and certain other animal products (such as genetic material, hides and skins, pharmaceutical products) will be lifted.... Exports of live animals of species that are susceptible to FMD will also be able to resume from Great Britain except from the surveillance zone in Surrey..... The SCoFCAH meeting on 11 September 2007 will review the position."

Monday, August 20 2007 ~ "Farm animals exist for the purpose of trade and if there cannot be trade then they have no value."

    It is for the reasons in the paragraph above that one groans to read articles such as this one by Dick Sibley in the Farmers Guardian. The former president of the British Cattle Veterinary Association - a vet - who says he found the 2001 outbreak "exciting", writes without a trace of irony, "Farm animals exist for the purpose of trade and if there cannot be trade then they have no value. Vaccination would have been futile."
    Warmwell.com (no financial value either) has existed for the past six years in the unquenchable hope of raising awareness. Modern advances in rapid diagnosis and marker vaccines make vaccination the polar opposite of futile for an industry that cannot exist without healthy stock. In the epidemic of 2001, (seven months of it as the slaughter and waste dragged on), unhealthy, actually infected lamb was being consumed in the UK . For some time, unrecognised, acutely infected sheep were passing through abattoirs undetected. Not surprisingly, consumers were not informed about this. One imagines they might have preferred the idea of healthy meat and questioned the notion that vaccination was "futile".

Monday, August 20 2007 ~ Waste "Recycling" - a source of disease?

    For some time now, Robert Persey (see latest email) has been concerned that waste, going to poorly regulated landfill or composting, could pose a far greater danger to health than any theoretical threat from properly prepared pigswill. His email raises questions that should be taken seriously.
    As an example of the worry felt by ordinary people, a recent petition (see Minutes of Council local committee) in Surrey last year, signed by 360 residents of a small village, asked why the GBC Environmental Health had not determined that : ".. steam and foul smells from the site prove that the operations fall outside the scope of activities permitted by the exemption registered, but not effectively controlled, by the Environment Agency". The site in question houses both a supplier of pet food and a company which operates a soil recycling business on land at Strawberry Farm, adjoining Glaziers Lane in Normandy. That particular site, ironically enough, happens to be situated very near Pirbright where soil samples are being analysed for virus contamination and right between the two farms where FMD was confirmed.
    (UPDATE: We read in the Honorary Remembrancer's Report 2007 Guildford (pdf) that ".. The Environment Agency ordered Pathfinder to end the blending and composting of green waste at Strawberry Farm, Normandy, in May and ordered the removal of existing stockpiles by the middle of July. Pathfinder are subcontractors for Surrey Waste Management, who hired them to carry out green waste management at the site in 2005, but by the end of the year local residents were complaining about the volume of lorry traffic, the size of the waste mountain, dust, noise and smell.....some thousands of tons of green waste and soil mix (were removed) from the site by May 1..")

Monday, August 20 2007 ~ Bluetongue ".. if a strict vaccine regime with at least 80 percent coverage of susceptible populations is achieved, vaccination can lead to the eradication of the virus."

    More on warmwell's Bluetongue page about the vaccines for bluetongue. Today on a ProMed posting: "..the vectors respect neither borders nor movement restrictions, vaccination is a key tool to prevent the virus from spreading into hitherto uninfected areas.
    It seems that the European commission is willing to fund 50 percent of the costs of a vaccination campaign.
    The use of inactivated vaccines will provide additional safeguards, preventing the spread of vaccine virus within the susceptible population."

August 18 - 20 ~ Farmers in England will be able to move calving cows and their calves under tight restrictions from today (Saturday) - tests on Pirbright soil imminent

    BBC "...Chief veterinary officer Debby Reynolds issued the movement licence "to help resolve animal welfare issues" that had arisen in the dairy sector. Restrictions will remain in place within the protection and surveillance zones around affected farms in Surrey... The government is awaiting the results of independent tests on soil from the outbreak site near Guildford. The Health and Safety Executive said it had received the results of the tests from the Pirbright laboratory site and would report back to ministers once the data had been analysed. .."

August 18 - 20 ~ Animal diseases rage across Europe but "virtually no action to deal with outbreaks in a sensible way"

    Referring to Friday's Farmers Guardian
      - extract: (bluetongue) ".. .will become endemic in northern Europe. It is spread by midges, and veterinary experts believe it will only be a matter of time before it crosses the Channel into the south of England. This, and foot-and-mouth disease, happened as Romania faced the consequences of a swine fever outbreak, while Sweden had its first cases of the pig wasting disease, PPRS, also known as blue ear disease. France has reported fresh cases of the H5N1 strain of avian flu. These were in wild ducks in the Moselle region...."
    ..one correspondent says, "This just a snapshot of the current situation: diseases everywhere and virtually no action to deal with outbreaks in a sensible way. Looks BT will hit 1000 cases over the weekend (BE 489, NL 249, G 250 (?), F 8, LU 1 ) and many more in the pipeline. What's next ??" We feel that while animal disease control is in the hands of politicians who have far too much on their plate to be able to be experts, things can only get worse. Animal disease control should be back in the hands of the veterinary profession, aided by the blessings of modern science both in rapidly diagnosing and in fighting these pathogens.

August 17 ~ "the ethical way" Sheepdrove Organic Farm is urging vaccination

    Sheepdrove Organic Farm, now famous for its high standards of animal welfare and sustainability projects, is owned by the former publishers, Peter and Juliet Kindersley. They have responded to the Surrey outbreak by renewing their call for FMD vaccination to be adopted. Sheepdrove's campaign line is "Cure not cull. It's time to start caring for animals and stop killing them - start preventing through vaccination and curing those that have it - as we do for any other illness that we or animals get. This is the ethical way." See their Press Release
    Peter Kindersley points out, "Defra's outdated FMD strategies have been a disaster for rural communities."

August 17 ~ Another scare

    We were informed earlier by very brief email (much appreciated) that Carlisle abattoir notified DEFRA because of ..... (update 17.50: Apologies for confusion. The abattoir was "West Scottish Lamb" but it was two cows, not lambs as we reported just now, according to www.whitehaven-news) .....with "lesions" that caused the abattoir to be closed while inspections were going on. ( 1600 Friday - Radio Cumbria - DEFRA have given the all clear at a Carlisle abbattoir. Now 2 farms in Scotland are undergoing tests.)
    There have been many more false alarms in the past days than have reached the media. For example, slaughterhouse staff in Merthyr Tydfil called in Welsh Assembly vets yesterday morning - but blisters in the suspect lamb's mouth turned out to be uninfected sores.
    There are, of course, many things that could have caused lesions apart from FMD. A useful reference - although in Dutch from the Dutch Ministry's website, is this pdf file showing the visual differences between FMD (left side) and Bluetongue(right side)

August 17 ~ "....very disappointed with the response from Defra. It's impossible to get them by telephone."

    We see in the Surrey Advertiser today that DEFRA minister, Jonathan Shaw, ".. came under fire for not producing clearer foot and mouth guidance at a public meeting in Elstead last Friday." When Mr Shaw was challenged all he could do, it seems, was say that the NFU "fully supports" culling of "potentially dangerous contacts". Waverley councillor Bryn Morgan, in expressing his disappointment that DEFRA couldn't even be reached by telephone, said there was "a great deal of confusion.." adding that even horses in the protection zone couldn't be moved outside the zone without a licence
      "and there are no licences, because Defra has not yet decided what the formula for granting licences should be.."
    (see article)
    Mr Shaw's own evident confusion is a measure of the apparent inability of DEFRA to grasp the issues and explain them clearly to Ministers or to those directly involved - without recourse to "support from the NFU". It is now nearly three years since the Royal Society (pdf. page 13) advised DEFRA that:
      "....The UK contingency plan and the EU FMD Directive contain detailed information about the communication arrangements in the event of an outbreak. A chain of command is established to involve all parties in the process to allow information to feed into the system. Developments in advanced telecommunications and enhanced central and regional information management systems should be investigated as part of the evolution of the plans.
    There are many more lessons waiting to be learned from this outbreak to do with what the Royal Society called, "scientific and technological developments" (starting here might help)- but the basic management skill of effective communication also seems high on the list.

August 17 ~ The CVO did say they had some interesting epidemiological information. I haven't heard a squeak as to what this is.

    Ruth Watkins, farmer and expert virologist, has been joining in an off-line discussion about the index case and the manner of spread, "... What has struck me from the start is the number of animals ill at the same time. It seems a considerable proportion were infected and a significant proportion of these were ill... Either there was an index case earlier with a heavy exposure of the rest of the herd, 1 animal infecting 30 for instance, or there is the rather remarkable finding of simultaneous exposure of the 10 or so animals.
    ....I don't know if the results on the two herds point to a possible exposure of one index animal in the first herd to be infected (if indeed both of the herds were not simutaneously exposed) with subsequent cases or whether there is likely to have been a mass exposure event in the first herd. The CVO did say they had some interesting epidemiological information. I haven't heard a squeak as to what this is. As you have pointed out I wonder if there is a missing piece in the jigsaw - a Pirbright (deliberately or accidentally infected) animal. With all the finger-pointing at the labs on the site and the HSE investigation I can only suppose this is not the case. I think that question should be put to the HSE investigators.

August 17 ~"This makes a nonsense of the cost-sharing agreement"

    Lord Rooker said on Tuesday that he felt humbled to hear the experiences those affected had endured and was alarmed that those with diversified enterprises were unable to get business insurance for losses incurred due to foot-and-mouth restrictions. The Fwi quotes Lord Rooker's own words:
      "This makes a nonsense of the cost-sharing agreement"
    The Farmers Guardian now reports that recent events have made "life even more difficult for those Ministers and officials within Defra who are pushing the cost sharing agenda."
    It is self-evident that no industry should be expected to pay its share of control and compensation costs stemming from failure on the government's part. We recently reported on one of the smaller DEFRA stakeholders' meetings (not the "core" stakeholders referred to below) of 28 February 2007. Cost cutting, for DEFRA, appears to have been the one important item on the agenda. In spite of the time for this meeting having been drastically reduced at the last minute, a great deal of it was taken up by a reading aloud of material that participants could have read for themselves - and probably already had. Crucial points about diagnostics and testing were, it seems, cut short by the Chair. A question about treatment of vaccinated meat was deferred. Urgent inquiries about the accessibility of on-site diagnostics were not answered. Communication issues, which have so often been referred to before by these stakeholders, were still not being addressed. DEFRA's answers to urgent and relevant questioning betrayed either a woeful lack of knowledge or else an unwillingness to engage with the subject at all. No company could support such serious inadequacies of management. Again, we quote Dr Roger Breeze in the paper "Industry Cost Sharing" " Industry cannot negotiate meaningfully if its "negotiation" comments are only responses to proposals and goals of the government."
    And now we read in today's www.financemarkets.co.uk that "insurers are failing farmers by not offering insurance cover for the impact of foot and mouth disease....there is little insurance protection for loss following an incidence of foot and mouth..." ( Thanks for this link to FMD News - a service provided by the FMD Surveillance and Modeling Laboratory, University of California at Davis )

August 17 ~ "....the mistaken belief that isolated incidents of foot-and-mouth disease necessitate the closure of rural England" Commission for Rural Communities

    The Financial Times today reports that Gordon Brown has asked that the impact of the foot-and-mouth outbreak on the rural economy be examined by the government's Commission for Rural Communities. As just a couple of examples of the impact on England as a whole, we read in Cumbria's Times and Star that the Government has said that, although Mitchells in Cockermouth can, from next Thursday, set up a collection point for farm animals to be transported to slaughter houses, Auction marts such as Mitchell's must wait until September 10 until they can operate fully. Since some of their biggest auctions take place in August and September, this is a bitter blow. Even Wigton Motor Club's Cumbria Classic Car Show on Sunday 20th August has been scrapped because of fears that the disease might still spread. They are just not prepared to take the risk. Yet the risk of disease spread from the two farms next to Pirbright is now negligible - as can be seen from DEFRA's own latest epidemiological report e.g. "...an unusual precision of both the time of infection of IPs and the period of infectiousness of the IPs provides additional reassurance for the estimate of the risk of further cases of FMD...., it is unlikely that FMD is present elsewhere in Great Britain." - a very different situation from the grave situation in China where pigs are dying in their thousands and there are real fears of a global pandemic among domesticated pigs.Vietnam already seems to be affected. The International Herald Tribune quotes Trevor Drew, head of virology at the VLA "This is the most rapidly evolving virus I've ever studied. The Chinese are saying they have definitive proof (i.e.that it is blue-ear 'PPRS'), but as far as I'm concerned the jury is still out on what this disease is."

August 16 ~ "decision-making on movements should have been devolved to a local level"... Instead, we get an "RSPCA Hotline"

    In the notes to Editors at the foot of the DEFRA News Release (261/07) we see:
      " 3. Where farmers are facing acute welfare problems as a result of movement restrictions they can contact the RSPCA Farm Welfare Hotline 0870 7538 333"
    Farmers should surely expect to be helped by the local DEFRA offices to deal with problems directly caused by the restrictions made by DEFRA. One wonders what the RSPCA can do to help a farmer whose animals need to be moved to fresh grazing or who is running out of capacity for animals that would normally have been sold on. Some might even say that, given the concerns recently voiced about the RSPCA , a farmer could easily find himself in Court rather than being assisted.
    Many have deplored the increasing politicisation and the unaccountability of certain elements within the RSPCA. The Political Animal Lobby (Pal) has greatly influenced what was once a decent old-fashioned charity, and financial support to the government appears to have resulted in its being given powers that many would deem inappropriate. To tell farmers to call its Helpline is extraordinary - a complete abrogation of the Department's own responsibilities . We note that the Carlisle vet, David Black, who sat on Prediction, Prevention and Epidemiology sub-group of the Royal Society Inquiry, said this week (Cumberland News) that decision-making on livestock movements should have been devolved to a local level. This, he said, " would have enabled animal movements to be made much sooner and avoided causing suffering to livestock."

August 16 ~ Does even Lord Rooker understand it?

    The Fwi today shows Lord Rooker talking to those who lost their animals in Surrey. One farmer, it seems, as well as pointing out the illogicality of importing meat from Brazil vaccinated with vaccines produced in the UK, also appeared to be under the impression that vaccine itself is responsible for foot and mouth outbreaks. He "...questioned the role of vaccine production for commercial gain if it put domestic livestock at risk."
    Instead of explaining that vaccine production does not put domestic livestock at risk; that it uses killed virus to combat the disease; that vaccinated animals pose no health problems to humans or other animals; that it does not, Ben Bradshaw's assumptions notwithstanding, 'mask disease' ; and that it was an escape of the pathogen itself that caused the crisis in Surrey, the FWi merely reports that Lord Rooker "defended the right to hold live viruses for research purposes." He then went on to defend the non-vaccination policy too - because "I'm keen to resume exports as soon as possible."
    If farmers and the public are getting the impression that it is vaccine and not live-virus that spreads disease then we really are in trouble. Our efforts have been to turn protest away from vaccination - where it is unwarranted - and point it instead towards the unfair and outdated trade policy of the EU which is precisely what causes the problem about resuming exports as quickly as possible. The Royal Society Follow-up report was intended to raise awareness of just this: a lack of understanding in both stakeholders and the general public about vaccination and the UK exit strategies following its use.

August 16 ~ "prevent - not pre-empt"

    When R.P. Kitching, M.V. Thrusfield & N.M. Taylor published their Use and abuse of mathematical models: an illustration from the 2001 foot and mouth disease epidemic in the United Kingdom last year (Rev. sci. tech. Off. int. Epiz., 2006) we read,
      "The epidemic and its control resulted in the death of approximately ten million animals, public disgust with the magnitude of the slaughter, and political resolve to adopt alternative options, notably including vaccination, to control any future epidemics. The UK experience provides a salutary warning of how models can be abused in the interests of scientific opportunism."
    Their conclusion included the aphorism: 'prevent - not pre-empt' . The gamble not to use vaccination to prevent spread in the Surrey outbreak must have astonished many. Much has been said on warmwell's pages about the EU's trade rules concerning FMD (See the Byzantine OIE Health Code, for example) and how, even now, countries who opt for vaccination can be discriminated against. The big players in the livestock industry naturally wish to avoid vaccination on economic grounds - even though no sound scientific, veterinary or health concerns about vaccinated animals remain. (See vaccination page) But, apart from the sound scientific reasons for a better policy, there are other interests to be brought into the equation - those who make their living with the help of livestock, tourism in the country, the tenant farmers, the commercial smallholders and simply people who just keep a few animals for the pleasure it gives them. They are involved too - up to the hilt - and ought to have their views considered.
    We note the membership of what DEFRA calls its "core stakeholders"; i.e. the group first to be consulted on such matters.

August 16 ~ Foot and mouth and bovine TB

    A response from the Welsh Assembly about Shambo, the Skanda Vale bullock, winged its way into many email boxes yesterday. Dated August 9th, the identically worded letter from the Welsh Assembly made no attempt to engage with any of the individual points made. What the "TB Team's" reply to many concerned emails did not say, in addition to its assertion that
      "Post-mortem examination of the animal has revealed visible lesions typical of bovine TB infection, which means that a positive TB breakdown is now confirmed in the herd...."
    was that a positive breakdown cannot be "confirmed" in the herd until further results are obtained. The culture that has been set up (taking about 6 weeks) can confirm the lesions really are due to TB - but that has not yet been definitively shown.
    Two or three other animals in the Skanda Vale herd have tested positive on the severe interpretation of the skin test applied when officials said that Shambo had lesions visible at post mortem. It would be useful to know if there was any independent witness to the post mortem on Shambo.
    One difference between the bTB and FMD at present is that there are proven, effective vaccines ready to be used against foot and mouth.
    If only things were as far advanced to combat the scourge of bovine TB.

August 15 2007 ~" rapid diagnostic technology is available..... the capability for NSP testing post-vaccination is fully ready and operational."

    The newest technology in rapid on-site diagnosis for FMD and up-to-date marker vaccines has been available for some time, and we echo the questions of an informed email to arrive today:
    • To what extent has the government provided the necessary funding and ongoing support?
    • Why has the use of field and region-based tests not been included in current contingency plans?
    The experience of this highly-charged and anxious fortnight, when all samples still have had to go through Pirbright before any action has been taken, lays bare the inadequacies of the UK Contingency Plan. Mary Marshall's email is fully referenced. A particularly apt quotation comes from the paper Implementation of a one-step real-time RT-PCR protocol for diagnosis of foot-and-mouth disease. ( J Virol Methods. 2007 Mar 28; : 17397937)
      "This more rapid and economical one-step protocol will play a key role in contingency planning for any future outbreaks of FMD in the United Kingdom (UK)."
    That there is, in fact, still no mention of this protocol in the UK contingency plan should be of great concern to those involved.

August 15 2007 ~ Warmwell Summary

    We can piece together from Defra's epidemiological report dated August 9 and our own notes below, a brief summary of some of the important events up to that date.
    • Commercial vaccine production using O1BFS1967 began at Merial in the week beginning 16 July. In addition to Merial, live virus at the IAH site had been used to provide reagents for diagnostic tests and disinfectant testing "on a continuous basis".
    • It was on July 20th that "drains from the main sewer opened and flooded the field".
    • At the first farm, Woolfords Farm in Elstead, foot and mouth lesions were dated (retrospectively) back to 26th July
    • first clinical signs were noted 3 days later by the farmer and all animals killed by Aug 4th, seven days after clinical signs and one day after tests apparently showed 39 of the Woolfords cattle positive for active disease. P and S zones were put in place. .
    • Although the 75 farms with approximately 750 cattle, 1,500 sheep and 200 pigs in the Protection Zone could, we are told, have all been vaccinated within 24 hours, it was decided that immediate vaccination within the zone to halt the spread of disease was not going to happen. Adequate reasons for this have not, we feel, been given - merely that the decision was, "In line with this decision tree and the emerging conclusions of epidemiology investigations". The science backing the UK policy should be clearly articulated. ( We refer readers to our current vaccination page in the hope that such a missed opportunity won't occur again. Mistaken ideas still abound as if they were fact. However, the real facts are that vaccination does not mask disease; uninfected animals, once vaccinated do not need to be subsequently slaughtered; vaccinated and infected animals can be distinguished on serology testing; authorities are still able to monitor the spread of disease when modern marker vaccines are used.. - in short, the objections to vaccination are economic ones - and it is the outmoded trade rules that should be challenged, not vaccination.).
    • Visual surveillance of livestock and the blood testing of sheep within the protection zones began (clinical signs are difficult to spot in sheep).
    • From the isolation of the strain, revealed by Pirbright, it emerged that the Pirbright site was itself the source of the virus and zones were adjusted accordingly.
    • A routine protection zone surveillance visit (also carried out the day before) noticed first clinical signs on the second farm premises on August 6th, confirmed on the 7th.
    • Lesions on the second site (beef suckler calves) were dated back to July 31st and all animals killed by the evening of the 7th August
    There have been no other confirmed cases - but the "SOS" farm, Hunts Hill farm, had 362 mixed species free-range animals slaughtered "as a precaution" and the grief of Mr Emerson when he discovered that the suspect pig, and all the other animals, had been free of disease was very painful to witness. If an incubation period of 12 days is assumed and if the date of virus escape has been correctly estimated then any animals infected from the initial escape would develop clinical signs by 20th August. If there has been onward spread one can only hope that continuing surveillance will find it quickly.
    (We have still not - by 10.30 am - heard any news of the test results from yesterday nor how those results are to affect the ever-harder to endure movement restrictions. UPDATE "Restrictions on livestock movement will be further eased from midnight on Wednesday to permit farmers to move their animals between different fields on their farm for welfare reasons" )

    UPDATE 13.20 World at One tells us that the initial test results are negative - but that more tests needed for a definitive result.

      The delay in giving us information on the two suspect sites suggest that the official laboratory has not really got a grip on how to use the newer technology. As soon as the testing requirement goes up and results are needed quickly in order to reassure thousands of people, it does seem that they are finding it difficult to cope. Where does this delayed certainty leave the restrictions? When blanket restrictions are not warranted by any real disease risk in areas away from the focus of disease, local vets at least should be able to intervene to prevent unnecessary animal suffering. Up to date information should be on the DEFRA site as soon as possible and not be treated as sometimes seems the case, as if it were in some way "classified". As Michael Greaves says below, DEFRA seems to be behavng as if we were at war.

    UPDATE 13.40 Vaccination Teams to be stood down

    DEFRA news release "..... Based on the overall risk assessment, including the findings of the Epidemiology Report, and provided initial negative tests from the TCZs are confirmed and there is no change in the disease situation, the Chief Veterinary Officer will stand down vaccination teams from their current level of alert. Teams could be stood up again in five days, if needed..."
    An updated . Summary Epidemiology Report gives the Situation up to 16:00 Monday 13th August. Day 10 of the outbreak.

    Finally ..... news came through this evening (Wednesday Aug 15) that the two new Foot and Mouth temporary control zones in Kent and Surrey had been lifted "based on further negative laboratory results for Foot and Mouth Disease"

August 15 ~ The Veterinary Medicines Directorate Report appears to clear Merial

    From DEFRA website: "The VMD have conducted a thorough technical report on Merial's production facilities, in support of the HSE investigation at Pirbright, focussing on the following issues:
    A number of minor deficiencies in biosecurity were found but there was no evidence that they would lead to a breach of biosecurity arrangements Merial have recently begun using new facilities without giving VMD the opportunity to inspect that it is fit for purpose. However the relevant strain was not used in these facilities. The air handling pressures were found to be within specification and the laboratory is fit for purpose. There were no risks to biosecurity found.
    No possible release of virus is envisaged from turning antigen into finished vaccine and therefore there are no potential risks to biosecurity from manufacturing Defra's vaccine for possible use in this outbreak."

August 15 2007 ~ "....the total absence of accurate information (notably from DEFRA who seem to treat this as if we were at war)..."

    Another email from Michael Greaves this morning talks of the problem of getting accurate and up-to-date information
    "... the national and trade press has been disgracefully sloppy in reporting this crisis: one report had it that the first outbreak was miles to the south of where it actually was." We understand there will shortly be a posting by him on http://thehuntsman2007.blogspot.com/
    Professor Brian Spratt's report to Hilary Benn and the CVO, including in their evidence the outcome of the immediate investigation currently being carried out by officials from Defra, the Veterinary Medicines Directorate and the HSE, was due to report by 13 August and any news of the findings would be gratefully received.

August 15 2007 ~ While we wait for test results in the new cases, we read that, ".. every single sheep in the initial quarantine zone has been tested for foot-and-mouth disease and all have been proved negative."

    The Scotsman, in its reporting on the two new 2 mile exclusion zones set up around Honeychild Farm in Kent and Chessington World of Adventure, quotes Frank Langrish, "who owns 5,000 ewes on Romney Marsh just outside the new exclusion zone and who serves as chairman of the British Wool Marketing Board" and who told the Scotsman that "every single sheep" had been tested in the originial zone around Pirbright.
    On Saturday, an article in the Guardian describes the day to day experience of a woman in the village of Normandy who keeps 10 Kerry Hill sheep in a field behind her bungalow . She recounts the efficient bloodtesting of all her sheep that took place on the Sunday, the visual checks on the Monday -and their bewilderment on Thursday when they had been visited by a DEFRA official
      ".... I was very nervous. They said that a local person had reported sheep in the area that had not been checked. They meant my sheep. I had to fill in a form and sign a document that they were mine. After all the visits and paperwork, how can they not know about them? It's unbelievable."
    The article - from the point of view of one family with just ten rare breed sheep - vividly conveys the anxiety, the sympathy and sense of unreality in the immediate area of Pirbright during the past fortnight.
    The government is also awaiting the results of what the BBC is careful to call " independent tests" on soil taken from the site of the Pirbright laboratories.

August 14 2007 (18.00 pm) ~ Yet Another.....Foot and mouth tests conducted on sheep at a unit in Surrey

    Tests are being carried out on sheep at a holding in Chessington in Surrey just 20 miles from Pirbright. Farming Weekly has the story but no further details yet.
    UPDATE It is Chessington World of Adventure in Surrey. A further 3km temporary control zone has been imposed while a sheep at the wildlife park is being tested.
    As for the original escape of virus and how it reached the infected premises near Pirbright, a correspondent in the latest email for publication gives an informed view as well as a refreshing admission that his first theory was wrong.

August 14 2007 (17.20 pm) ~ "Experts in human medicine are not hidebound by rules - usually out of date and made by large groups of civil servants."

    Today's vaccination page been updated again this afternoon. It now includes some points made about the knock-on effects of the non-vaccination policy on rural tourism and rural business - as well as some trenchant comment about the differences between veterinary and human medicine, long overdue for revision. In outbreaks of serious human disease, for example
      "... knowledge and development of diagnosis and vaccines may be essential ...by a team of medical infection experts - and these are peer reviewed and up to date with their knowledge. They have a clearly explained policy on the international stage.
      Experts in human medicine moreover are also not hidebound by rules - usually out of date and made by large groups of civil servants.
      ...... The imposition of the severe movement restrictions still in place over the whole of England and to some extent is still present in Wales and Scotland...(and) ... is looking disproportionately harsh, with animals suffering and farmers losing money and being pursued for minor infringements. Farming outside the South East and the favoured arable areas is often hard. Farmers are struggling to survive at all. Apart from that given to farmers in the designated zone in Surrey and those whose animals have been culled, there will be no compensation. Rural tourism and business could also be less severely affected if vaccination within a designated zone was carried out. After 10 days there is no reason for footpaths to remain closed..."
    Read in full or see the whole page in which the anti-vaccination arguments have today been refuted by informed comments sent to warmwell.
    As for the suspected new outbreak in Kent, Kent News update tells us that only 3 calves were tested, out of a herd of 250 dairy cattle.They have blisters on their tongues. Whether samples of milk have been collected remains to be seen. (see comment below on th testing of milk for FMD)

August 14 2007 (updated 16.40 pm) ~ The use of the 3ABC test still enables authorities to monitor the spread of disease.

    The marker-test principle is helpfully explained in this pdf file from Intervet about its ready-to-use Chekit-FMD-3ABC marker vaccine. The UK appears to be using Merial and their differentiating marker vaccine would seem to be developed along the same lines. Intervet says the sensitivity is more than 99% . (Page 10 of its 11 page pdf file)
      "...Regional vaccination: if FMD is established in a certain area and the rest of the country is still free, it may be decided to vaccinate all susceptible animals in the region. The use of the 3ABC test still enables authorities to monitor the spread of disease. Slaughter and consumption of vaccinated animals (provided they are from 3ABC-negative farms) is still possible without the risk on further spread."

August 14 2007 (updated 15.20 pm) ~ Those who make their living from livestock need to lobby to change the rules, rather than fight against the march of modern animal disease control.

    (See Kent News) It now appears that the control zone round the new suspected FMD outbreak, centres on Honeychild Manor farm in St Mary- in- the -Marsh, in the Romney Marsh area of Kent. (A glance at their website might suggest cause for alarm if the tests do prove to be positive.)
    Whatever the outcome, questions about the risk taken by the decision not to vaccinate will inevitably be raised. At present in the UK, very few are arguing for the use of prophylactic vaccination - that is, wholescale vaccination throughout the country. (see NFMG letter) Instead it is being pointed out that since emergency vaccination to live is now part of EU and UK policy, the public need to be given some good reasons why emergency vaccination was not used right from the start to stop the virus in its tracks.
    No such good scientific or veterinary reasons have, as far as we know, been given.
    The page referred to below points out the misconceptions in the arguments against vaccination that are still voiced by those wishing - not unnaturally - to protect their industry and their exports. While one has no wish to undermine their efforts to do what they can for their own industry, it is important for union leaders to acknowledge as is said here that those who make their living from livestock need to lobby to change the rules, rather than fight against the march of modern animal disease control.
    Vaccinated meat is perfectly safe. Vaccinated animals - even the rare so-called carriers - have never, after decades of research, been known to spread the disease. The vaccines are very good and getting ever better.
    It is the current EU trade rules, based on the assumption above - that "Carriers are a Danger" - that must be challenged and put right.

August 14 2007 (1 pm) ~ A new suspected case of foot and mouth in Kent (Romney Marsh area)

    Google updates. The BBC reports that a control zone has been set up around the farm, but did not say exactly where it is. Debby Reynolds has said the case is similar to the false alarm at Laurence Mitchell's Manor Farm near Dorking. Test results are not going to be known for sure until later today or even tomorrow.
    One suspects from what is being said that rapid testing may have been done on-site whch quickly suggested the all-clear. As at Manor Farm, test results done at the Institute are always a belt-and-braces reassurance.
    However, if this is not the case and the results show virus then the vaccination arguments are all back on the agenda with a vengeance. We note that the NPA gave out a list of statements to quash argument "in the pub" and elsewhere when ordinary people ask, as they do, "Why on earth not vaccinate for FMD when we vaccinate for so much else?" The big business answer cannot show mere concern about protecting protectionism. Their arguments against vaccination are examined here. Looked at dispassionately, the counter, pro-emergency vaccination arguments sent to us by experts in their field, seem indisputable. (link mended)

August 13 2007 ~ FMD Bioportal - an unrestricted, public web site

    The FMD Bioportal. Once you have been accepted as user, you will be able to search the databases containing FMD epidemiological data, serotype data, and more - and display these data in tables and graphs, or visualize using GIS visualization programs. Our thanks to FMD News - a service provided by the FMD Surveillance and Modeling Laboratory, University of California at Davis.

August 13 ~ "It would be ludicrous to suggest, on the basis of giving the FMD vaccine suspended in mineral oil as an adjuvant, that the vaccinated animal must then be killed."

    Dr Ruth Watkins this week on the subject of vaccination and its misconceptions. Particularly relevant to those who think that vaccination amounts to a sort of nasty chemical cocktail being pumped,willy-nilly into animals - or that vaccinated meat or milk could be refused by consumers on any sensible grounds:
      "....All our lives we are exposed to viral bacterial and parasitic infections, bitten by insects that inject their saliva and we swallow goodness knows what so that our digestive system is exposed also to a myriad of proteins and other substances. Even in the Stone Age we would have had viruses (herpes, adenoviruses, respiratory viruses, hepatitis B etc) bacteria, commensal and pathogenic, eg M tuberculosis, and also been loaded with worms in the gut and blood- even lungs too. We would have had lice in our hair and fluke in our liver, and been exposed to animal viruses and bacteria when we killed and butchered freshly killed animals to eat (this is believed to be the source of HIV virus infection in humans, HIV-1 from the chimp). The tiny dose of protein given in modern vaccines and the relative freedom from worms and insect bites mean that modern man has a fraction of the exposure of his Stone Age counterpart.
      We do however have exposure to man-made molecules that do not degrade in the environment, and to synthetic hormones such as oestrogens in the water, which is a concern - but they are not in the vaccines used."
    Dr Watkins' note.
    We now read (Monday evening. See North West Evening Mail) that Cumbria's "regional farming union chiefs" have "come out in support of the government's chief vet" because, says the paper, she has "resisted calls to vaccinate British herds" One wonders what exactly the "strength of the very latest scientific advice and thorough risk assessment" consists of and where we can see it - and from where exactly came the calls that Debby Reynolds had to resist.

August 13 ~ "... highly, highly, highly, highly unlikely"

    Prof Hugh Pennington, quoted today at newswales.co.uk gave his opinion that we can assume the outbreak to be over "... by the end of next week if we've seen no more cases, I think we can say it's highly, highly, highly, highly unlikely that there will be any more cases. Not before then."
    The article tells us that the Welsh have taken unilateral action over movement restrictions. If you are on the Welsh side of the border, you are allowed "movement to accommodate the needs of newly weaned animals; pregnant sows; pregnant cows; animals for breeding; and animals with feeding difficulties as a result of a severe shortage of grazing." - but only within one kilometre. However, if you are on the English side, you can't. (What happens to the needs of newly weaned animals; pregnant sows; pregnant cows; animals for breeding; and animals with feeding difficulties throughout England we simply do not know - and DEFRA's "latest situation"page was this afternoon giving the public news about nothing except horse movements.) The NPA site says that "one week after the start of the foot and mouth outbreak there are 170,000 more pigs on England's pig farms, and producers are rapidly running out of drinkers, feeders and building materials for temporary housing" and says that they are hoping, at least, that "same-holding movements will be approved by Monday"

August 13 ~ "Failure to clarify both the exit strategies and meat treatment protocols will undermine Defra's sterling work.." Royal Society 2002

    After six years of patient work it is disheartening to say the least to read, in papers such as the Telegraph, opinions appearing to be facts and passing unchallenged. We read "....vaccination would more or less ensure that it became permanently endemic. It would be impossible to tell whether the animals were disease-free, so it would become impossible to export meat or milk products.." In fact, as Paul Sutmoller explains below, the particular antibodies that protect vaccinates from developing or passing on disease can indeed show freedom from actual infection. Vaccinated meat and milk products most certainly can be exported again - within far shorter times than in 2001
    It would be reassuring if the media, so responsible for guiding public opinion, were known, like ProMed, to act responsibly in checking the science that underpins FMD vaccination and the practicalities of its use.. Nick Blamey of the BVA on Friday's edition of the World at One was equally mis-informed on vaccination - and was not challenged by anyone. Hardly surprising then that the public - in spite of all the efforts of so many - are still as confused as they were in 2001.
    In their Follow -up Report back in 2002, the Royal Society had this to say:
      "... It is therefore imperative to find approaches whereby emergency vaccination can be employed in situations where pre-emptive action is required. Use of such vaccination procedures must be coupled with arrangements to ensure that the animals subsequently enter the food chain {7.7}. If there are problems associated with a nonslaughter approach then these need to be resolved.
      ....derogations within the EU Directive {7.7}.. ease the exit strategies after the use of emergency vaccination. More work is required to promulgate to stakeholders and the general public the exit strategies. In addition clear explanations of meat treatments required in a FMD outbreak must be provided. The drafting of Defra's recent publication 'The role of vaccination in a future outbreak of FMD' (Defra2004d) was not sufficiently clear in this respect {7.7}. Failure to clarify both the exit strategies and meat treatment protocols will undermine Defra's sterling work in securing these derogations when the Directive was being drafted..."
    The work of the Royal Society Inquiry and its follow-up were intended precisely to avoid the sort of confusion we have been aghast to witness in the past ten days.

August 13 ~ "Sir Brian Follett is wrong when he suggests that vaccinated animals constitute a danger"

    The "green light" we spoke of below has now been received after world expert in the field, Dr Paul Sutmoller's refutation of some of the points in Sir Brian Follett's article, "Tough choice of kill or vaccinate"(Aug 5) . Dr Sutmoller's letter appears in the Sunday Times but can be seen here in its full version. Extract:
      "....Sir Brian Follett is wrong when he suggests that vaccinated animals constitute a danger, because they may be carrying FMD virus. Unfortunately, in spite of all the evidence to the contrary, the idea that FMD carriers represent a considerable risk of transmission of the disease appears to be persistent and remains up to the present the basis for current rules and regulations for international trade in animals and animal product.....also wrong when he states that vaccinated animals cannot be moved. The EU directive 2003/85/EC allows movement of vaccinated animals within national borders after six months after an outbreak of FMD.
      ... The hypothetical risk of vaccinated carriers can be further reduced by a serological survey for anti-virus antibodies in animals in the non-vaccinated surveillance zone around the vaccination zone. Those results, together with the results of the a-NSP test, would verify the FMD-free status of the area..." read in full
    We would add just two short quotations. The first: "we take the view that food from vaccinated beasts does not need to be labelled" National Consumer Council April 2001 , and the second:
    "There are now no insuperable problems with vaccination, whether technical, scientific, trade or cultural" Sir Brian Follett, chair of the Royal Society Inquiry Report (published on 16 July 2002)
    This page summarises the main findings and recommendations of the RS report.

August 13 ~ Dairy herd on the Pirbright estate. Still there?

    "Samples can be obtained by taking blood, but also non-invasively from the nose and from milk". The email from Mary Marshall below raises the important issue of testing milk. This, as she says, can be done quite easily without the need to inject into the skin.
    We are now wonderering if it was being done as a matter of simple routine on Pirbright animals. It has come to our notice that the milk collection service for the dairy herd on the 'Pirbright estate' was cancelled on Wednesday, August 1st, 24 hours before Mr. Pride on his own farm rang his vet about clinical signs in his catttle.
    No mention has been made of this herd on the 'Pirbright estate'. Is the herd actually at Compton? Is it still alive? Was FMD found in milk samples? Was a candidate animal to test supposedly inert dead vaccine found to be clinically infected, and did that alone stop the routine milk collection?
    We are still wondering which was, in fact, the index case in this outbreak. But even this, interesting as it may to those of a detective bent, is not as important for disease control as the central fact: Testing milk for FMD virus is straightforward. If virus is anywhere where there is a dairy herd it can be pinpointed easily by testing the milk. Is it being done?

August 10/13 ~ "VS recognizes the value of milk as a sample for FMD surveillance, as well as the value of this test in moving milk safely inside of quarantine zones.." The United States Animal Health Association

    but the USAHA document here continues: " ARS and APHIS have done proof-of-concept work using the ARS/Tetracore developed real-time PCR assay for FMDV nucleic acids in milk......Due to the loss of some crucial staff at Foreign Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory (FADDL), they have not been able to move ahead with the optimization of this assay for milk...By March 2006, FADDL should have in a place a Head for the newly formed Proficiency and Validation Services Section, which will enable them to move forward with the optimization and validation of this assay in milk....."
    So, a familiar story of underfunding and frustrating difficulties. News of progress with this would be gratefully received.
    ( Incidentally, and as many now know, the ARS/Tetracore developed real-time PCR assay was the very machine that Sir David King turned away in 2001. Magnus Linklater when the journalist asked Professor King, UK's Chief Scientific Advisor, why it was not being considered was apparently told "I would need five hours to explain the science to you," he said. "Unfortunately I don't have that time." )

UPDATE: Screening milk detects disease days before the farmer can. " if we do not take opportunities like this one to.. validate the tests, then when?"

    A paper by Thurmond MC, Perez AM. "Modeled detection time for surveillance for foot-and-mouth disease virus in bulk tank milk" Am J Vet Res 2006;67;2017-2024. reached the following conclusion:
      "PCR screening of bulk milk for FMDv would likely detect FMDv in dairy herds several days sooner than might be expected for owner reporting of clinical signs and thus should be worthy of consideration for regional, national, or global FMD surveillance." (More)
    We are very grateful for the abstract sent today by Mary Marshall, Participant in the EU-funded FMD & CSF Coordination Action.
    This was closely followed by an email from the co-author of the paper, Andrés Perez. "...my feeling (and please note that this is just a feeling) is that this technology is at a stage in which testing in the field would be appropriate and recommendable. And if we do not take opportunities like this one to do so, and therefore, to validate the tests, then when? ..."

August 10/13 ~ More slaughter imminent - unless movement restrictions can be eased

    Another aspect of the frozen situation in Surrey is the welfare issue. The restrictions on livestock movements are now causing problems of overcrowding. Issues of providing food, drink and temporary housing are becoming critical, particularly on intensive pig farms.
    In 2001, movement restrictions led to scenes of utter misery for animals. So-called "welfare culls" killed healthy animals as much as the panicky contiguous culling did. Literally millions of animals died in horrible conditions; not just those who - in that much repeated phrase - "would have been slaughtered anyway". The loss of breeding stock was terrible but it was grim to see even meat animals consigned to such an end.
    The NPA, alive to any political pressure that can be applied, is asking producers to keep a photographic record of their mounting pig welfare problems and warning that piglets will have to be killed "in-situ". This is a situation that is going to have to change urgently. Scotland and Wales, but not England, are allowing controlled welfare movements.

August 10/13 ~ " the laboratory must move into the field and test animals quickly before irreversible actions are taken." ProMed

    To read on ProMed that diagnostic testing should now be "out of the laboratory" is very cheering. On Saturday, a ProMED moderator, in the course of a five paragraph comment about the UK situation, (www.promedmail.org)wrote:
      "....In the past -- that is, pre-1980 -- when we killed "contact" herds it was not questioned and laboratory techniques then could not have handled the volumes of samples. Today all that is different and thousands of samples are run each day. This brings home the point that the laboratory must move into the field and test animals quickly before irreversible actions are taken..." (More)
    For six years warmwell and others have been asking that the analysis of samples should happen at the place where samples are actually taken, using already available, ever more affordable diagnostic kits, rather than be taken by car, train or air to the reference laboratory. Results can now be obtained in the field within minutes rather than hours and days, can detect FMDv before the onset of clinical disease and the "irreversible actions" such as we saw at Hunts Hill farm can be avoided. The "prototype RT-PCR" mentioned to our correspondent seems not to have been used on the suspect pig there. It is hard for an outsider to discover much - yet we read here for example:
      "...We have performed 5 minimal infectious dose experiments with FMDV type O1 Lausanne using the original "Pirbright set-up" although using updated technology ......Two diagnostic methods for very fast, sensitive and specific detection of FMD virus using real time RT-PCR has been submitted, one of them for UK Patent and the other for international patent protection. DEFRA has naturally been granted unrestricted access to testing of samples from the UK using the new assays..."
    Even on a farm with a lame pig so close to an IP, it seems that precipitate action might have been avoided. Mention of patents does make one consider what the reason might be for the apparent secrecy surrounding the use of rapid diagnosis in the UK . Ironic perhaps then that we were reliably told this week that "the whole portable PCR field will be transformed with very cheap machines that are highly automated within the year".

August 10/13 ~ "The government has a responsibility to use the technologies that can identify disease before signs appear if these technologies are available. They are available, and they are being used in the lab. ."

    Mary Marshall's email suggests that the present practice of testing only sheep in a high risk area is a practice that should be challenged. She asks the question that has evidently occurred to many in addition to ourselves:
      "Why were samples not taken as part of the inspections, from the first day and subsequent days, from ALL of the susceptible animals on a contiguous farm, especially if Defra considers the animals on these farms to be of such high risk? "
    "... If virus is detected outside the surveillance zone, vaccination should then be automatically triggered. If no virus is detected outside the surveillance zone over several days, possibly coupled with more widespread testing of milk, then an easing of movement restrictions in other regions of the UK would be justified." Read in full. Quoting the ProMed comment above, she concludes, " To implement the diagnostic policies that I suggest, the government must be committed to provide a 21st century biocontainment facility as part of a national disease control strategy and ensure that their labs have sufficient resources and funding to function effectively. "

August 10/13 2007 ~ " Whilst hoping for the best, a point source, we should have taken precaution against the worst, a plume."

    Ruth Watkins, MRCP MRCPath (a specialist in Clinical Virology) in the paper written this weekend especially for warmwell and farmtalking, has given ten reasons why she is convinced that vaccination in this outbreak should have been undertaken. She also gives a fascinating insight into her field of expertise: the microscopic world of cells and how vaccine protects them from attack by wild virus. She explains, "All virus families have different characteristics, and to some we may never be able to make protective neutralising antibody at all such as Hepatitis C virus. How lucky we are to have such a good vaccine against FMD - it is theoretically possible to eliminate FMD from the world by vaccination....decades of scientific research has provided us with excellent vaccine to all the major serotypes of FMD virus.".
    As she says, we are lucky too that
      "...that we have these scientific and vaccine establishments in the UK, and we should be ready to take advantage of the benefits they can give us."
    Her email and paper can be read here. She warns, " With global warming we may expect the incursion of a number of exotic viruses into the domestic animals of Northern Europe, which - if they are insect borne or infect a wildlife reservoir - may not be eliminated. May we have diagnostics and vaccines ready to meet them..."

August 10/13 ~ FMD - uncomfortable issues still to answer

    The Lightwater site, at Worldpress.com succinctly sets out the issues that are worrying many of us. Underfunding, maladministration, government spinning that they are not to blame - particularly the leaking of information about Merial's staff and their operation "aimed at deflecting criticism from Government" Read in full

August 10/13 2007 ~ the role of rapid on-site RT-PCR during this outbreak

    Saturday morning saw confirmation of negative results for the Matthews calves and DEFRA's revocation of the temporary zone around Manor Farm. The Today programme (Saturday) interviewed the free-range farmer whose 362 animals were killed as a precaution. Mr Emerson at Hunts Hill farm revealed that vets had been checking with him every day but on Wednesday, one lame pig with slight lesions just above the hoof (coronary band) gave enough cause for alarm that samples were taken. After lengthy discussions with Page Street it was decided - on the strength of this one pig and because Hunts Hill farm was so close to the other two outbreaks- to kill all the animals on site, of all species, immediately. (The pig was, in fact, clear of disease as were all the other animals. Mr Emerson was quoted: "knowing now that my animals were never infected makes it worse.")
    Pigs can excrete a great deal of virus early on if infected, true - but what of these samples? It would be interesting to know if they were or were not checked by rapid on-site diagnosis. We should very much like to know more about the role for all speciesof the rapid on-site RT-PCR being used by the UK as an indicator of disease in its various phases. Which species are being tested by rapid diagnosis and how often - in short, exactly how is the new technology being applied during this outbreak? Or is this - for reasons one can only guess at - information that must be kept secret? There are many others who want to know about rapid testing. One of the most recent emails to warmwell, from the Chairman of Mitchell's Auction Company in Cumbria, reminds us yet again of the UK refusal to contemplate testing real time RT-PCR back in 2001.

August 10/13 2007 ~ We fear a bad end and a wrong answer to the question of ultimate responsibility.

    Our summary of the situation so far before we collapse into the weekend: Pirbright is a 'government' laboratory but it has no government power to control events. It survives at the whim of the Government and of the Treasury. It cannot criticise its paymasters. Like so much else whose usefulness ought to be taken for granted and isn't, Pirbright has been starved of funding, equipment and staffing and has suffered a loss of morale. Yet the expertise we need is still based at Pirbright. It is not Pirbright's fault if commercial considerations, including its close relationship with Merial, have had to take the place of its former "public service" ethos - and it is not Pirbright that is shaping policy; it is the politics that needs big business as its life blood.
    Across the country, farmers and others who work with livestock are suffering for what happened in Surrey and a lot has been said about the irony that the crisis came from the very Institute set up to avert it. Perhaps live virus in a vaccine being tested somewhere on the Pirbright site failed fully to be attenuated or got out by human means. As in all walks of life, this sort of thing can happen. But we fear a bad end and a wrong answer to the question of the ultimate responsibility for what happened at Pirbright.
    The jackals are gathering. Reputations and careers may be made sacrifices in the financial storm that's coming. It is, as always, the big players who will battle over big money. The drama of "who was to blame" will unfold like something on reality TV. Throughout this whole crisis mainstream journalists have missed by miles the key question, which is this:
      Is it right that our disease control policy is based wholly on unfair and out-of-date "health" regulations, forcing those decent small farmers, who also need to make a profit, to fight the Goliath of the non-vaccination policy?
    It is the EU's protectionist policy, enshrined in the OIE regulations that discriminate against vaccination in returning disease free status, that constantly postpones a more sane, more humane, science-based animal health policy in the UK. The Pirbright virus escape would - in a less crazy world - have been a small local irritation, quickly solved by the ability of available modern technology to cure and protect.

August 10 2007 ~" If the present policy is successful, it will be a measure of good luck in ignoring these two variables..."

    Email received this afternoon from Dr Colin Fink (Clinical Virologist & Hon. Senior Lecturer in Biological Sciences University of Warwick) He says, in brief, that Debby Reynold's latest briefing was "reasonably coherent" but that the present 'no vaccination' strategy , makes no acknowledgment of the possibility of wild life vectors. (See also below) Dr Fink says
      " the present policy assumes one distribution of virus by primary intent only ( ? accident ? sabotage ). Vaccination around the present areas, as I suggested earlier would prevent any further environmental virus distribution from having much clinical effect and would lower any re-excretion rates of virus into the environment. - a basic tenet of vaccination.
      If the present policy is successful, it will be a measure of good luck in ignoring these two variables.
      One of the more worrying aspects of the clinical presentation of the second affected animal group in this outbreak, was the profound onset of the illness simultaneously in a number of animals. This strongly suggests a high viral load within the environment that infected this group all together. That to my mind would be one reason why vaccine for this outbreak should be used sooner rather than later."
    Read in full

August 10 2007 ~ Miserable news. We got so used to this in 2001...

    Livestock culled on Hunts Hill farm did not have foot and mouth disease. DEFRA says that tests on the 362 cows, sheep, pigs and goats slaughtered on Wednesday, (some of which may have appeared to have initial clinical symptoms of foot and mouth), show that none of these animals were, in fact, carrying the foot and mouth virus.
    Horrible news. See first paragraphs of the Telegraph article. And it casts doubt on our assumption below that they would not have been culled unless an on-site rapid diagnosis, rather than mere clinical inspection, had indicated disease. Ironically, these negative results will be seen as good news - and of course in a way, it is. But failure of rapid diagnosis - reliance on a clinical diagnosis that turns out to be wrong - this is shameful when we have access both to excellent diagnostic equipment giving results within a fraction of the time it takes in the lab and vaccines that will, as Dr Fink says above, "prevent any further environmental virus distribution from having much clinical effect and would lower any re-excretion rates of virus into the environment." Killing first and checking afterwards is something we had hoped could never happen again in a modern civilised country - and it does nothing at all to protect others.
    So much for our optimism about the possible efficient deployment of on-site rapid testing. The question must remain: why were these animals killed? What machine is being used for on-site testing? What was the reason to keep paths open near infected farms? Nick Green got some distinctly odd replies to his questions today.

August 10 2007 ~ "..we could still find ourselves in the bizarre situation where the meat on the shelves is imported from countries where Foot and Mouth Disease is prevalent "

    In the Scotsman, Dan Bugloss says of Brazil, "...the Irish party confirmed suspicions that the vaccination regime was haphazard at best and sometimes completely non-existent. Meanwhile, the EU continued to import Brazilian beef, allegedly from regions declared clear of the disease....
    Yorkshire Dales Country News today quotes Dr Charles Trotman, CLA's Rural Economy Adviser: " "understanding between parties in the food chain is essential .... I hope that the chief executives who control the big supermarkets will instruct their meat buyers to... avoid the temptation to try and make a quick profit at the expense of those who have had to shoulder the economic burden of this disease."
    Douglas Chalmers, Director CLA North told the paper that " we could still find ourselves in the bizarre situation where the meat on the shelves is imported from countries where Foot and Mouth Disease is prevalent. Not only would this compound the agony for home producers, but it would have had a longer term effect for British farmers and processors. With home produced meat now available again, it is to be hoped that no one will try to take advantage of the situation..."

August 10- 13 2007 ~ Suspect animals were to be monitored, not immediately culled on suspicion

    The latest available DEFRA interim epidemiology report can be found at www.defra.gov.uk [PDF] (500 KB) (apologies. Link mended - but it is slow) or here. It shows the situation as at 10:00 am yesterday and tells us that since 3rd August 2007 suspicion of FMD has been reported on 37 holdings, in the counties shown in the table it shows.
    "Five holdings are still under investigation; disease has been ruled out on the remainder."
    Movements from Surrey have been traced: "para 23. Investigations have confirmed that no sheep from Surrey or from the surveillance zone that overlapped into the neighbouring county of Hampshire were moved to or sold through Bicester sheep fair at Thame market on 3rd August. 24. In summary, the risk of spread of infection out of Surrey through movements of silently infected sheep during the risk period is very low."
    Within the zones, testing seems (to us) to have been very efficiently carried out.
    A "dangerous contact" had been identified next to the second outbreak; a single holding that is "highly likely to have been exposed to infection through a personnel contact ... Additionally, stock on the DC premises are adjacent to the IP and only separated from it by a farm track and a lane."
    However, these animals were, according to the Aug 9 report (10.00 am) , to be carefully monitored every day rather than culled on suspicion. "target=new> Read report (pdf)
    All this suggests to us that a rapid on-site portable PCR test may well have found evidence of disease on the free range farm where the 362 animals were killed yesterday.UPDATE (Pirbright's pen-side test does not perform PCR See above ) However, we still wait for news of the lab test results.
    UPDATE: As we say above and the Telegraph very brefly reports, all the cows, pigs, sheep and goats at Hunts Hill Farm turned out to be free of infection.

August 10 2007 ~ " it has been decided not to vaccinate at this time."

    A new DEFRA statement has appeared "....In line with this decision tree and the emerging conclusions of epidemiology investigations it has been decided not to vaccinate at this time. However, this approach will be kept under constant review as the disease situation develops and the Forward Vaccination Centre will be kept in place.
    As part of the evidence base for this decision Defra has today published an interim epidemiology report into the outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease in Surrey...."

August 10 2007 ~ Information about differentiation tests needs to be clearer. (Boring but very important)

    Yesterday's Farmers Weekly article "Vaccine best for foot-and-mouth?" reported that Dr Tony Andrews "... believes there would be difficulty in acknowledging the difference between a vaccinated animal or infected animal and, therefore, stresses the need for clearer answers...." but Anthony Gibson of the NFU (and we remember his sense and humanity in 2001 with gratitude) said the NFU was confident there was a validated test.
    Dr Andrews is right that things need to made clearer. We begin to understand his stance on vaccination (even though we do not share it). The OIE Code Commission have accepted the principle of herd based NSP serosurveillance as a basis for countries regaining FMD free status. In other words, while tests to distinguish vaccinated from unvaccinated animals are accepted in the OIE Terrestrial Animal Health Code
      ("... a serological survey is conducted to demonstrate that antibodies to the disease are as result of vaccination and not natural infection.")
    - there is STILL not yet an internationally accepted NSP (non-structural protein) test for individual use in any species. The test shows whether antibodies, produced when the animal tried to fight off real live virus, are present in the blood. Such antibodies are NOT produced as a result of vaccination so differentiation can be made. Even though tests - such as those assessed in 2004 by Bruderer et al - are shown to be effective, the OIE will, at present, only accept whole herd tests for the purposes of international trade. Full validation for individual tests requires panels of seven FMD serotypes in at least three target species. Testing has to be carried out in high security accommodation - and needs to be carried out where both vaccination and exposure to virus can occur. We speculate that work has been going on recently at Pirbright. It seems to warmwell more than likely that this testing may be significant in the present crisis. Meanwhile, it is a dreadful irony that such work cannot continue. Once it is done then the last (non trade) obstacle to vaccination will be removed. And as page 37 Version 1.2 - ( Volume 2 Foot and mouth disease) of DEFRA's Exotic Animal Disease Generic Contingency Plan (Consultation Version- July 2006) makes clear:
      Public opinion - Public are likely to support a vaccinate to live policy and this would be in line with FMD Inquiry recommendations. Food Standards Agency advice is that labelling of products from vaccinated animals would not be required. A shared statement (i.e:here) on the use of vaccination as part of FMD control strategies has been produced in partnership with consumer organisations.
    In April we wrote about the question of "Validation" (only when it suits) "... It needs to be pointed out and repeated that the mathematical modelling that drove that discredited 2001 policy was not validated and no validation was ever attempted. As Dr Martin Hugh-Jones commented: "Any model is only as good as its ability to be validated....One of the criticisms of the Anderson FMD model was that it could not be validated. Nor, for that matter, was validation ever attempted with the very expensive result that we all witnessed."

August 10 2007 ~ NFU moves towards court case

    www.thelawyer.com "South West firm Thring Townsend was instructed yesterday (9 August) by the National Farmers' Union (NFU) in relation to a potential action for losses suffered by farmers as a result of last week's foot and mouth outbreak."

August 10 2007 ~ New Case is NOT foot and mouth "I just wanted to be 100% sure"

    The farmer involved, Laurence Matthews, at Manor Farm, says that he had called DEFRA as a precaution when he noticed a possible problem with some of his calves - especially since it was his land that was involved in the second outbreak; John Gunner's animals. He says there has been "no traffic" between his farm (calves only) in Wotton and the second outbreak site at Normandy. The calves (3 - 5 weeks old) are all housed in the same building and any infection can spread easily. Mr Matthews is reassured that the suspect calves are now looking a lot better. Confirmatory tests will be known this afternoon - but one assumes that rapid diagnostic on-site PCR was used to ensure such confidence this morning..
    There is no news yet about the test results from the 362 animals killed yesterday. 576 animals have been destroyed so far and the human misery this causes is examined by the Telegraph today. "Every animal has its own unique value to us," said the free range farmer yesterday. "We were absolutely devastated."

August 10 2007 ~ A new possible case. A New Temporary Control Zone

    Late last night an announcement was made that a new control zone has been placed on a site in Surrey outside present areas. There was frustration as no further details emerged. The new 3km zone is now known to be east of the existing surveillance zone and southwest of Dorking. DEFRA's emergency response centre at Reigate is not far away. The Times is raising the spectre of sabotage again. All DEFRA would say is: "This precautionary measure follows an inconclusive assessment of clinical symptoms by Animal Health veterinary staff. The national movement ban remains in place. In addition, in the Temporary Control Zone, general licences will not apply for the movement of animals to slaughter and collection of dead animals from farms." but fears that the outbreak of foot and mouth disease had spread from the initial control zone is going to send shivers through the farming community. More as soon as we know.
    There are those who have the time and interest to wait in front of television, radio and the internet for news. Farmers, whose stomachs are turning, many of whom have no representation, have to get on with the farming day. They - unlike the officials working hard in Surrey - are not able to earn overtime. Open information, given as soon as it is known, is important and we cannot see any "public good" reason why it should be withheld.
    UPDATE - see above.

August 10 2007 ~ Defra can find the time and money to send us all pointless bumph that we don't need, let alone have time to read, but when the countryside is hit with something like FMD we get absolutely nothing

    An ironic query sent by a farmer needs no further comment.
    The NPA site too had included, just before its jokey footnote about painting pigs black and white, the sentence
      "There is also a desire among the vets for an improved cascade of information from Defra in London. ..."
    but we note that this sentence has now been removed.

August 9 ~ The Ministry knows best....

    More on the subject of getting the science wrong, non-admission of Government mistakes, official ignorance, compensation claims side-stepped...but this is a different problem and one that spans 30 years. A document Sheep dipping - Advice for farmers and others involved in dipping sheep has appeared on the Health and Safety Executive website. It contains grim warnings about sheep dipping.
    Sheep dips, (designated 'veterinary medicines') were found to eradicate scab in sheep, thirty years ago, if they contained organophospherous compounds. These had actually been developed as chemical warfare agents. Farmers themselves, such as the doughty campaigning Lancashire farmer, Brenda Sutcliffe, became aware that OPs were causing depression, brain damage and premature death and demanded their total ban. But the Ministry knew best. Until 1989, the law required compulsory dipping twice a year. By 1992, dipping for scab at last ceased to be compulsory but MAFF (now DEFRA) announced instead that it would not hesitate to prosecute sheep farmers who did not deal promptly and satisfactorily with an outbreak of scab.
    Fear of compensation demands have, as often before and since, made the government very chary about any admission of responsibility. The wording of the HSE document is careful. Warnings are general and apply to all dips. However, the sentence,"Some agricultural pesticides contain OP or SP active ingredients. These products are not authorised for use as veterinary medicines and must never be used for this purpose" would seem to be incontrovertible. (The FWi article today brought our attention to the existence of the booklet.)

August 9 ~ Bad news that can't be buried

    Unfortunately, the Fallen Stock relaxation is hardly making much of an improvement. For those who remember The Good Life, this is the Margo Leadbetter method of collection; picking one runner bean at a time and carrying it delicately across the garden to a sack. We're told that the Fallen Stock vehicle can go to one farm for collection - but then it must return to base for Cleaning and Disinfection (C&D). So instead of maybe 30 - 40 carcasses per day, they will be lucky to collect 4. There may well soon be a problem with leakage and smell. A bit of a stink.
    Scotland, we hear, have allowed on-farm burial at least in the short term. As one emailer writes today, "Pity the fallen stock aren't a bit closer to the minions in Page St." Yes, and pity the Fallen Stock scheme, has been clung to for fear of admitting it was a piece of "legislative madness" ( as Dan Buglass in the Scotsman put it) to begin with.
    UPDATE: A reader has written to say that multiple pickups are allowed as long as the collection vehicle doesn't enter the premises and loads at the farm gate only; farmers are being told to 'bring out their dead' to the perimeter of the holding (roadside) and cover. The truck is "not encouraged to go driving into farms and across fields or into buildings" he said. If the premises have to entered to remove/despatch the casualty, then it is one farm, one pick up and C& D before entering another farm. (Knackermen don't just remove dead animals, which may or may not be accessible, they dispatch sick and damaged ones too. It is obviously not appropriate to transport a cow with a broken leg to the roadside and leave her there)

August 9 ~ "the worker bees at the local Defra office do try to be helpful, despite the insane orders they receive from headquarters..."

    Jonathan Miller's top ten are now up. For the jaded, they are as refreshing as a cold beer pressed to one's forehead. Others may not be quite so refreshed. His list of the good, the bad and the ugly begins; "Never mind the disinfectant, send the whitewash..." However, as our choice for a paragraph title shows, he is very happy to give credit where it is due, and from others we have heard, the DEFRA footsoldiers in Surrey do indeed seem to have been human and kindly. Sad agreement too with the following on the subject of the internet:
      "....while the networks are activating quickly, frankly we lack real political clout. We do not have a clunking great fist. The challenge is to convert our command of the facts and superb intelligence into meaningful pressure. I admit this is a tough problem when our democracy is so intangible, and note that it is a problem not unique to this issue..."
    Read in full
    UPDATE Even so, and although Jonathan Miller is undoubtedly right, the bloggers are uniting...( Alas, this cartoon will have to self destruct very soon)
    Here, back in the fray, is the famous organic centre Sheepdrove,: "Join us in calling for the right to vaccinate now...Why not let the farmers decide? We could use our own risk assessments and make a decision on whether or not to protect our stock against FMD."
    UPDATE 2: We notice (Friday) that members of HM forces members are now to be banned from blogging without permission, " if the messages concern defence matters". Instead, "all such communication must help to maintain and, where possible, enhance the reputation of defence" The new rules cover "all public speaking, writing or other communications, including via the internet and other sharing technologies, on issues arising from an individual's official business or experience, whether on-duty, off-duty or in spare time". See Independent Do gagging orders (extensively and unofficially used in FMD 2001) really help enhance the reputation of anything, let alone "defence"?

August 9 ~ Another twist - of the knife

    HSE are investigating a case of Legionnaires' Disease at IAH Pirbright, thought to predate the problems with virus escape ( the escape estimated to have been in the third week of July according to Fred Landeg ( pdf ec.europa.eu) . We discover from the IAH annual report dated 2004, that the ISO10 building at Pirbright, where the person with Legionnaires disease had been working, had been built the previous year to replace SAPO-4/ACDP-2 containment level accommodation
      "for work on exotic viral diseases and vaccine development."
    In other words, the lab where exotic viral diseases and vaccine development has been taking place was an environment where a worker could have caught a disease. According to this HSE account of a tragedy in 2002, that case- ie in 2002 - was caused by the failure of biological monitoring of the ventilation system. "...Vacancies in management posts were blamed for the shortage of risk assessments and absence of in-house monitoring." Underfunding perhaps.
    The BBC report tells us " Legionnaires' Disease is caused by a bacterium that causes problems if it is converted into aerosol form from a water - for instance, in showers or spas - and then inhaled."

August 9 ~ Updated questions and answers at DEFRA

    Click here for Tuesday's updated "FMD disease emergency vaccination - question and answer brief" from the DEFRA site. See also DEFRA's general Question and Answer page Aug 2007 - section on vaccination Extract:
      "Suppressive vaccination (to kill) might be considered where the number of animals to be culled is likely to exceed the immediately available disposal capacity. In those instances, animals in defined areas would be vaccinated first and slaughtered only as disposal capacity became available. It could also be used where there is an urgent need to reduce the amount of virus circulating in an area and reduce the risk of spread beyond that area."
    This is just "stamping out" by another name. The worst of all possible worlds for the animals and for the farmer.
    Killing vaccinates rather than keeping them together would seem to make no sense. Anyone who has understood Notes on Vaccination and Transmission will see why. We are depressed to see mention of "suppressive" vaccination in the brief.
    We notice too from Fred Landeg's presentation to the Standing Committee on Food Chain and Animal Health (SCoFCAH), ( pdf ec.europa.eu) in Brussels yesterday made no mention of vaccination in the presentation but did give further details - for example that the first lesions were dated 26th July and the clinical symptoms- first noticed on the sick animals on 29th July- were reported the following Thursday 2nd August. FMD was confirmed the next day and it became public knowledge that Friday night.
    As we know, Member States are allowed to proceed straight away with emergency vaccination. No permission needs to be sought from the EU. The updated brief may be possibly be preparing us for something.

August 9 ~ Dutch Socialist Party MP backs vaccination and calls for EU policy to be changed to make vaccination compulsory

    Krista van Velzen wants to see preventative vaccination against Foot-and-Mouth Disease made compulsory. She is quoted (Tuesday) in the online edition of the SP (Dutch Socialist Party) newspaper: "The outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease in Great Britain has once again made it clear that the current EU policy is wrong" adding that there is no support in the Netherlands for such animal-unfriendly policies. The Dutch MP is calling on agriculture minister Gerta Verburg to put the argument at European level for compulsory vaccination. (Many thanks to Brent for this link)
    It may be remembered that Dutch farmers, having been promised that their vaccination policy in 2001 was to allow animals to live, were then appalled to learn that all vaccinates were going to be slaughtered after all. An eminent Dutch vet from Utrecht, Peter Poll, said at the Bristol Conference in England in 2001 that he thought it very likely that the Dutch veterinary associations themselves " will no longer cooperate in an eradication programme as carried out in Spring 2001" .

August 9 ~ "Some days I've taken 12 showers" says Dr. John Copps, deputy director of the National Centre for Foreign Animal Disease in Winnepeg

    From www.canada.com ".....Dr. Copps..... who is monitoring the outbreak in Britain that may have been caused by a lab breach.... "Anything they learn, we'll try learn from them." .... says the federal lab near downtown Winnipeg, which houses the only live foot-and-mouth virus in Canada, has the advantage of being much newer and farther from farms than the British lab under investigation. "Some days I've taken 12 showers," he says, as evidence of the multi-layered safety procedures at the Manitoba lab, home to some of the nastiest diseases on earth."

August 9 ~ New cull involves "suspected"cows - but also sheep, pigs and goats at a farm advertised as "free range"

    From the moderator (AS) at ProMed today. "We are informed by ProMED-mail rapporteur Joe Dudley that according to local media reports, the new culling operation involves cows, sheep, pigs and goats at a farm in the village of Normandy, Surrey. The farm is advertised on the web as a producer and vendor of "free range" pork/bacon, beef/veal, lamb, and mutton products.
    Culling of other susceptible species on suspected or confirmed-infected premises does not necessarily mean that these animals have been found infected; possibly, the suspicion involves bovines. Details are expected to be included in UK's follow-up report to the OIE.
    All 3 outbreaks so far -- including the new one, which at this stage is regarded as suspected -- are located in the village of Normandy. An additional cattle herd was culled in Elstead, about 7 km south of Normandy, in a 2nd farm property of the owner of the index farm. There are, thus, 2 protection zones.." Read in full
    Feeling sickened, we await test results. One wonders if all the susceptible animals have been killed or just the cows.
    UPDATE we are now told that there were 362 animals at the third suspected FMD site. 576 animals (Bloomberg) have now been killed because of this economic disease that does not affect humans, and for animals is usually debilitating but not fatal. Except in the UK.

August 9 ~ EU says restrictions are to stay in place at least until 25 August.

    Brussels says that the situation has not yet "stabilised" since culling at a third farm was ordered yesterday afternoon. A European Commission spokesman said it would be "premature" to alter the EU measures and EU vets will gather in Brussels on Thursday 23rd August to assess the situation. See EUobserver
    It should be remembered that at this stage we do not know how the virus got into the country around the Pirbright labs and we do not even know which was the index case. We will post the results of the tests on yesterday's culled animals as soon as we can find them.

August 9 ~ Cracked Mirror

    A very unpleasant article in the Mirror this morning is an example of how some journalists are tarring all farmers with the same old smear of being heartless and greedy. The Mirror is read by around one and a half million people. Yet again one feels great concern that the decent, hard-working family farmers - those that are hanging on despite terrible economic hardship - are, on top of all their other worries - being reviled as well. An extract from a private email today gives an example of a farmer who can only keep going by working at another part time job as well. And this is common now; (another reason why the RPA situation is so scandalous) :
      "...tired - trying to make some hay with very tired equipment and old tractor - nothing 10 or 15 k wouldn't fix quite quickly but.... fed up with farm, fmd, overtime at work to pay for farm eqpt - most days it all seems worthwhile, others -well, lets not dwell on those. Yesterday was one of those.."
    Particularly disgraceful in the article was the suggestion that the grief of the Surrey farmers was not genuine. In spite of its evident support for vaccination, we found the whole piece one of the nastiest attempts to deepen the chasm between town and country that we have seen since 2001. As Huw Rowlands, a Cheshire farmer, wrote yesterday, it is time a distinction was made in the public mind between the powerful agri-business interests who are not representative of all farmers and the real farmers who often have no representation at all.

August 8 ~ Of course vaccination should have been the immediate reaction for all susceptible animals considered to be at risk.

    The EU FMD vaccine bank contained (and stilll contains?) some 5 million doses of O1 BFS 67 vaccine in the form of highly concentrated inactivated antigen stored over liquid nitrogen. In this case the vaccine has to be formulated and bottled by Merial, which will take a couple of days only. The much respected Hugh Pennington notwithstanding, talk of not using vaccination "yet" or "until things get out of control" may one day be looked back on with utter incomprehension. The CVO in her very brief press conference today did not allow the V-word to pass her lips - and nor was she asked by any of those press who could get a word in. But vaccination should have started at the perimeter of the Surveillance zone and quickly worked inwards. The first round could have been completed on day one. Contemplating the days passing without it is a bitter frustration.
    Meanwhile, television shows us shimmering pictures of marksmen with their rifles (humane slaughter or medieval butchery?) walking away away from the infected area still wearing their 'protective' suits. So much for biosecurity.
    It is very apparent that DEFRA is being advised and negotiated with by the big players. Their reasons for not wanting vaccination are well known and well described today by the Scotsman - but union leaders know little about infectious disease or what needs to be done to eradicate the disease beyond the crude term "stamping out". Policy is created by a powerful group at DEFRA's shoulder, while DEFRA chooses to interpret good diagnostic information from the Vet labs without using the expertise within these labs for shaping their policy.

August 8 ~ There's more at stake than paying compensation to farmers if Pirbright is found to be responsible for the leak

    Part of our very wobbly translation of this Swiss report account from Tagesschau this afternoon is as follows:
      "..... Veterinary experts from the 27 Member States of the European Union have met in Brussels to discuss the UK's foot and mouth situation. With EU Commission experts they discussed whether preventative measures should be intensified or eased. Independent British invsetigators ...warned of hasty assumptions. "There is no definitive answer to the question of where the virus came from" - but the likely probablity is that it came from one of two laboratories in Pirbright 60 kilometres from London.
      The point whether Pirbright will be able to remain a reference laboratory of the European Union for all FMD work, bluetongue illness and vesicular illnesses, has not yet been discussed. This year the British laboratory has received (the equivalent of ) approximately 773 thousand euros towards its work."
    Could we be seeing the end of Pirbright as a World Reference Laboratory? (No wonder everyone in Government circles wants Merial - whose safety report in February was satisfactory - to turn out to have been the party at fault.)
    We notice today that New Zealand's director of MAF's investigation and diagnostic centres, Hugh Davies, has said that no foot-and-mouth samples are kept in New Zealand because there are kits which can diagnose the virus in other ways." radionz.co.nz And it may well be that the days of Pirbright's monopoly for FMD diagnosis is drawing to an end anyway.

August 8 ~ Restrictions eased for movement to slaughter and for fallen stock for "certain parts of the country"

    We know no more detail at 3.30 pm. It sounds as though farmers may need to go on line to get the general licence but at 3.30 there were no news releases on the DEFRA site for today and nothing we could find about this - although we'd welcome information from those luckier in their searches. It has been disappointing in this crisis that mainstream reporters have often seemed favoured with information before so many people who are directly involved - very many of whom are not the sort of farmers who are represented by the agri-business unions. These unions - and especially the NFU are certainly in the loop if not actually directing the loop's curve. But there are many very anxious tenant farmers, smallholders and animal owners who are not getting official information and are not being consulted. There is a lot of speculation that this movement easing is because DEFRA has suddenly realised that farmers are going to break the regulations out of sheer necessity - so, like the footpath question - they have seen the wisdom of changing a decision that may have been ill advised. However the CVO insisted the change was due to her own veterinary assessment.
    UPDATE: Debby Reynolds (with the NFU's Kevin Pearce there too ) has just given a press conference. Eased movements for everywhere outside the two zones. More bad news Slaughter on suspicion , a phrase we'd hoped never to hear again, is about to take place on "an adjacent farm" and " I cannot rule out that disease is developing on the premises." The CVO would not tell reporters any more and could not give any details of the animals that will now die. No mention of any test result for them. She referred people to the website for more information. (Which finally updated with brief notes of today's news at 5.04)

August 8 ~ Allotment is out of the picture

    The Merial staff member who accompanied investigators to his allotment is said by a Merial statement to be uninvolved in any leak. There is no evidence at all to link that member of staff to any leak, they say. They add that media attention (and we can all picture what they mean) camped outside the person's house is "unhelpful". So we are left with the following possibilities.
    • The wind transfer suggestion has no evidence to support it (The 1981outbreak was that was supposedly windborn was certainly an individual carrying it on the Ferry to the Isle of Wight - not windborne).
    • Flood from a storm drain with material not heat inactivated before disposal is possible. - bad lab. practice
    • Sabotage : indeed possible -for a variety of possible reasons

August 8 ~ continued reliance on the NFU as an authority is perverting coverage

    When one listens to such broadcasts as this (Sky) on vaccination one has to take a few deep breaths. Hugh Pennington pops up yet again saying that we'd vaccinate if the outbreak got "out of control" - whereas ring vaccination is precisely what prevents this. We are reminded again of Jonathan Miller's exasperation today
      "....Another crime scene is the newsrooms of the national media who are blundering about oaf-like on this story. The word "vaccination" was banned from the BBC 6 o'clock national news program yesterday. Sky has a very pretty girl outside Pirbright who knows the square root of fuck all about FMD and would struggle to define or even spell epizootic. Sky has a medical correspondent who seems to be getting around this, but their continued reliance on the NFU as an authority is perverting their coverage and making them look ever more naive and stupid. ..."
    It is time that our pundits understood one basic fact at least. That is that an animal that has been vaccinated cannot become a "carrier" (misnomer) unless it has already been be exposed to wild, live FMD virus. That is why vaccination should have begun at once, starting from the outside of the zone and working in. There has been no evidence anywhere of outbreaks having been caused by vaccinated animals acting as "carriers". (I have the authority to say this because I have been working on this subject, unpaid and unswayed by any interest, every single day for the last six years and may perhaps have read more than most.) No vaccinated animal has ever hampered any FMD eradication efforts anywhere in the world.
    As for the general chorus of praise for DEFRA one must just point out that information for local people has been pretty poor on the whole, ring vaccination is not being openly and authoritatively debated, information on the infectivity of the strain and its characteristics are woefully lacking, and secrecy seems to pervade the department even now. The usual David King response of waiting for animals to develop symptoms and then killing them has been in evidence ever since Saturday. The NFU appears next to the chief vet at Defra news conferences, and no pronouncement that would not get NFU approval seems ever to be aired except on websites such as this. We hate to say it when we'd had such hopes - but something is still rotten in the state of Defra.

August 8 ~ Culling is solely to protect our beef export industry, whilst supermarkets happily continue importing beef from FMD endemic countries

    Huw Rowlands, a Cheshire farmer, writes to make the distinction between agri business (represented by the NFU) and the agriculture of family farms firmly based in and contributing to the rural economy.
      "....Culling infected animals is intended solely to protect our beef export industry, whilst supermarkets happily continue importing beef from countries such as Brazil, where foot-and-mouth disease is endemic. Can anyone explain the sense in this? And what about the contribution towards climate change of needlessly shipping vast quantities of meat around the globe?.." Read in full

August 8 ~ No punches pulled

    The journalist, Jonathan Miller, has an outspoken (and blessedly funny) blog whose illustrations alone are worth a visit. However, he has some pungent remarks today on the opaque nature of the HSE report (which he deconstructs for us), speculation about the desk upon which the buck should finally stop, remarks that we would never have dared to make about the quality of reporting in the mainstream media, and - this is the most worrying of all perhaps - the extraordinary article written by Sir Brian Follett in the Sunday Times. It seems almost incredible that Sir Brian, who heard, in the course of the RS Inquiry, all the most pertinent remarks concerning the 2001 epidemic and was privy to the carefully reasoned arguments of the real scientists, should have written such an article unless pressure was applied. Jonathan Miller says,
      ".....the suspicion of spin always too close.... I am working on a list of the 10 top things about FMD..... An early candidate for the top most stupid thing is from Sir Brian Follett in The Sunday Times who sagely declares: "the reason we slaughter animals is because, in island countries, it works. We can keep the virus out."
      This is pretty delusional, isn't it Sir Brian? "
    As for Sir Brian's arguments, they have been refuted and we will publish this as soon as we get the green light (Sunday Times letter from Paul Sutmoller is now here in full).

August 8 ~ " I stopped eating my cornflakes and wondered how Catlow would respond.."

    On the subject of the Talking Heads wheeled in by the media, Nick Green, the Cumbrian hero of 2001, has just been watching the interview this morning with David Catlow, the BVA vet: "The BBC presenter then asked Catlow, "Why do we conduct the research into FMD vaccine in this country when that is clearly a threat to the local farming community and when we never use the FMD vaccines here in the UK?"
    An excellent question. I stopped eating my cornflakes and wondered how Catlow would respond...." Read in full

August 8 ~ Vets and government officials were last night debating whether to start vaccinating

    The Guardian reveals that vaccination may be a little closer. This would be emergency vaccination (to live, we hope and assume) of cattle in the exclusion area rather than contiguous culling. (Although we have seen no official report anywhere, the killing of the animals on the smallholding, see below, later showed no virus present.) The Guardian:"The consensus is that vaccination is the most effective way of halting infection if the disease spreads to other areas. This becomes more likely the more outbreaks there are."
    If these outbreak really can be isolated, if rapid on-site testing really is finally being used by the government (albeit very quietly), if vaccination is going to be used at last to protect animals and farmers from the utter misery we have seen this week, warmwell can fold its tents and have a rest at last.

August 8 ~ No news is good news

    In spite of a rumour that had reached our ears yesterday, there are no reports of new cases anywhere yet. Interest still focuses on how the virus could have escaped. Who actually owns the Pirbright land now seems important, particularly if drains were responsible. If Merial only rents their part then it does look as though legally the IAH - for whom we have a lot of sympathy in view of the way they have been starved of funds - may find itself responsible since Merial has said it does not release water from the shared Pirbright site. "We ensure that the water we use in our virus production is treated. We then transfer it to the IAH who treat it further and release it." (See BBC)
    There is speculation too that a worker at the Pirbright site may have released virus into the countryside via his allotment. The map does show a stream passing from the allotments, through the paddock, by the nursery/compost/animal feed farm toward Willey Green and then north toward Pirbright.

August 7/8 2007 ~ A prototype on-site rapid diagnostic machine is being used in Surrey

    Extraordinary news. Certainly not generally known. A very impressed Bryn Wayt has sent this email to many contacts. "... a very nice and helpful lady vet and phoned and confirmed that, "a prototype RT-PCR unit had been used on the first IP, and the VO on the second site would be using it." His email is worth reading in full. We feel the manufacturer is irrelevant - as long as rapid test results can be obtained before the long wait for lab confirmation.
    As for the question about whether the strain would have been needed in order to test the cattle at Woolfords farm with a portable machine - we are told that it does not matter what sort of FMD virus is involved. One test detects them all. It appears that Pirbright has been doing quite a bit behind the scenes with portable devices. And the very good news is that the whole portable PCR field will be transformed with very cheap machines that are highly automated within the year.
    We find this news exciting - but once again, it has to be teased out and we are very grateful indeed both to those who ask the searching questions - and those who give the answers.

August 7/8 ~ Was it Bill or was it Ben?

    HSE initial report
      ".... large scale production at the Merial site (10 000 litres) and a series of small scale experiments (less than 10 millilitres in each case) at the IAH site.....We have initiated further studies intended to provide additional molecular information on the virus types in use at both organisations. ... detailed technical analysis... results are ...expected within a week.
    There would have been differences between the viruses used in the two different labs. (Virus for vaccine production is modified compared to the "field virus") With recent technology it should be possible to determine the lab of origin. And the choice of lab to investigate - because of IAH's monopoly - looks likely to be limited to one. Stranger than any fiction is that the key suspect should be the only one able to carry out the forensic investigation. (The HSE have served five notices on the Institute's two labs Pirbright and Compton, for breaching safety rules in the past four years.)

August 7 2007 ~ HSE initial report statement released - accidental or deliberate human activity suspected

    Neither lab has been pinpointed as the culprit but the balance tips towards IAH. Initial report points: Merial and IAH experiments have been mentioned. No evidence that there were breakdowns in the filters. They are still pursuing "lines of enquiry"...pipework and structure. Potential for virus to have escaped via humans, contaminated material might have travelled between the site and the farm. Very much an interim report - They have found no major gap in security. Unfortunately the SKY presenter does not realise that the Merial production of vaccine will not be posing any risk since no live virus is used in the making of the 300,000 doses of vaccine ordered for possible use. Wind and flooding are apparently virtually ruled out. The Sun this morning made rather more remarks claiming that decontamination rules were flouted regularly. The presence of builders on the site was not mentioned.
    Peter Kendall (NFU) has appeared on television and duly made the expected angry remarks - although Pirbright does not make the bureaucratic difficulties for farmers and one feels a sympathy for the underfunded Institute, once such a hugely respected centre of excellence for foot and mouth.

August 7 2007 ~ The two farms' cleansing and disinfection is to be paid for, says Hilary Benn, "due to the exceptional circumstances"

    Gordon Brown has been careful to apologise to the farmers and promise help - and to thank everyone for their cooperation. But no word at all on vaccination. No question asked on that. The revised zones can be found at DEFRA's announcement

August 7 ~ The Netherlands order vaccine - and are inspecting every imported animal

    www.volkskrant.nl/ (Translation) 6.44 pm " The Dutch minister has ordered 265,000 doses of vaccines. And has asked the Food Safety Authority to stand by for a possible vaccination campaign. It does not however mean that a decision to start vaccinating has been taken."
    No signs of FMD have yet been found in the Netherlands, "according to a spokesperson for the Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority. The VWA has been busy since Saturday carrying out checks of livestock at the 150 companies that have been involved in about 380 livestock transports between the Netherlands and Great Britain since the beginning of June. The VWA spokesperson expects that the last inspections will be carried out on Wednesday. The VWA has commissioned veterinarians to carry out the checks. The doctors are examining every animal for symptoms of the disease. They are also taking random blood tests. No symptoms of FMD have been found in the past few days." ( Source. Thanks for this link to FMD News - a service provided by the FMD Surveillance and Modeling Laboratory, University of California at Davis )

August 7 ~ Media concentration on 'who is to blame' and mention of "compensation" is a red herring for decent farmers

    There is controlled anger as well as the much mentioned"nervousness". Here is a West Country sheep farmer all too aware of the bitter paradoxes of the non-vaccination policy:
      "As a livestock farmer myself, with cattle, sheep and goats on my farm, I am angry to find myself trapped between two contradictory policies relating to FMD.  On the one hand, I am barred by the State from protecting my animals by vaccinating them against this unpleasant but non fatal disease that only affects cloven hoofed animals (not humans).  I am allowed, even encouraged, to vaccinate my animals against a wide range of other diseases.
      If my animals contract FMD, this non fatal disease, or if the livestock on a nearby farm are even suspected of having contracted this non fatal disease, they will be killed by DEFRA slaughter men, probably in circumstances far from humane.
      My only defence against my animals suffering this fate is to 'exercise bio security measures'; primarily to prevent any contact with my animals from the world outside.  On the other my animals from the world outside.  On the other hand, I am told by the State, that the rural tourist industry is much more valuable than my activities as a livestock farmer; and that consequently I must not prevent persons from the outside from walking along the footpaths through my fields...." Read in full
    DEFRA now (6.08 pm) finally announces that footpaths in the immediate area will now be closed off.

August 7 2007 ~ Brigadier Birtwhistle can only cite "consumer confidence" as an argument against vaccination

    Regular readers will be sharing our dismay and disillusionment at the recurrence of arguments that were soundly put to rest in 2001, especially in the mouth of the respected Brigadier Birtwhistle on BBC News 24 this evening.He said vaccination would be difficult because consumers would not want to eat vaccinated products. It is simply not true.
    Even in 2001, research from Taylor Nelson Sofres (TNS) showed that eight out of ten people in the UK, or 83% to be precise, said that they were not any less likely to consider buying and eating British produced meat as a result of the FMD crisis. That was then. Now we have seen far more good sense spoken about the eating of vaccinated meat - something most of us do all the time. Even Sir John Krebs is an ally here:
      "The Food Standards Agency was unambiguous in its view that vaccination would not pose a food safety risk and that, since farm animals are regularly vaccinated against numerous diseases, there was no need to label products. If the industry was correct in assuming that people would not want meat and milk from vaccinated animals, there does seem to me to be a bit of a paradox." Wooldridge Lecture 2003

August 7 2007 ~ "authorities will indeed find it easier to avoid massive stamping-out strategies." Bernard Vallat, Director General of the OIE

    Bernard Vallat, Director General of the OIE itself, is in favour of vaccination to treat animal disease. In his Preface to the Rev. sci. tech. Off. int. Epiz., 2002, 21 (3), 417-123 he writes of the OIE's "...recognition of new diagnostic tests capable of distinguishing infected animals from those that have been vaccinated (particularly when emergency ring vaccination is used to prevent the disease from spreading within a country or zone), that can be used for mass epidemiological screening of animal populations.....
    The amendments to the FMD chapter in the Code ... provide alternatives to stamping-out without vaccination ....considerably reducing the period of embargo on countries that resort to emergency vaccination but do not slaughter vaccinated animals,
    by using the new diagnostic tests on the herds involved, (proving) that the virus is not in circulation, means that authorities will indeed find it easier to avoid massive stamping-out strategies. "
    His views - unlike ours - can hardly be discounted. Protection zones have again been extended this afternoon. We, like Director General Vallat, can only hope that there will be enough calm and reasoned arguments to overwhelm the old "cure by killing" mindset, here in the UK. The sight of weeping farmers is something we just cannot bear when the alternatives are so patently there.

August 7 2007 ~ "... the classical scenario to use vaccination successfully without, in the long term, compromising the export status of the whole of the UK."

    Email today from a farmer whose experience is extensive both with livestock and with animal health matters. She is also one of the few who has a full grasp of the EU Directive. She, too, has been alarmed by the article in the Farmers Weekly mentioned below in which a vet, rather oddly dubbed "independent", claims he is "adamant the government should still refrain from vaccination". This article will have been highly influential and there were no counter-arguments made. Our correspondent points out:
      "The products of vaccinated animals could easily be marketed within the area - and besides saving animals from being destroyed, the risk of transmitting the virus out of the restricted zones could be minimized.
      This is still to be considered a localized outbreak and if this outbreak should spread beyond the boundaries of the protection zones it might be only controllable by measures that were already scandalous in 2001. Every additional animal that gets infected enhances the risk and by the time clinical signs are obvious the virus is already on the move to claim the next victim.
      The Government should stop listening to useless "consultants" and use vaccination before it is too late.
    These are arguments that should be in the public domain - especially for farmers who may be hearing only the views of the anti-vaccination talking heads.

August 7 2007 ~" These cattle do not benefit at all from all the work on FMD vaccines done on their doorstep..."

    Anne Bosanquet has sent us the letter she has written to Abigail Woods, following Dr Woods' Guardian article today
      Extract of her letter: "....surely the point is, these cattle, in the immediate area under threat of contracting this highly infectious disease, do not benefit at all from all the work on FMD vaccines done on their doorstep. Although they are at risk from escaped pathogens, the vaccines produced here are for the benefit of foreign beasts and not our own. I thought the improvements in the latest FMD vaccines was that tests could now discriminate between infected and vaccinated cattle -so why cannot our own cattle be afforded this protection now?"
    Mrs Bosanquet very kindly writes to warmwell: "Part of the reason that vaccination is being contemplated at all, (in the teeth of economic pressures from the usual suspects) is the sheer pressure and reasoned quality of your own website. We all know that what happened last time was absolutely intolerable and that needs to be articulated to politicians again and again and again. If ever there was a case for vaccination it's this one."

August 7 2007 ~ Disposal -best scientific analysis deems it necessary to carry carcases 90 miles on roads?

    Dr Iain Anderson, (Lessons Learned report) who opined on BBC 24 today that we were "in very much better shape" than last time, gave it as his view that the "best scientific analysis" must have decided the solution of taking the killed animals 90 miles by public road. He appeared somewhat surprised by the interviewer's suggestion that perhaps it was a political decision to avoid the repetition of easily photographed pyres, recalling the horrors of 2001.
    On-farm burial has been asked for in the Protection Zone. It would be reassuring to know that all alternatives have been considered as per Article 3.6.6.6. of the OIE Terrestrial Animal Health Standards Commission (Unofficial version of the Meeting in Paris 2-13 October 2006 Report)
      "Decision makers, in addition to biosecurity considerations, need to understand the economic, social and aesthetic impact of various disposal technologies....A disposal option hierarchy may be incapable of fully capturing and systematizing the relevant dimensions at stake, and decision makers may be forced to consider the least preferred means. It therefore requires a comprehensive understanding of any array of dead animal disposal technologies and must reflect a balance between the scientific, economic, and social issues at stake."
    (Still no mention of vaccination in the past few hours, no emails or texts are mentioning vaccination, it would seem. No interviews with vaccination experts.)
UPDATE: We now hear that the closest incineration plant to the protection zone (Harry Hawkins) was unavailable because there were animals still on site "posing another disease risk, and logistical problems"; the second nearest shut down for repairs (Canterbury Mills); next closest actually was the Wessex plant in Frome. It would have been helpful if this had been made public.

August 7 2007 ~ Report by Health and Safety on Pirbright due very soon

    It has, we understand, been handed to the Ministers concerned (Correction. It was still being compiled at 5.00 pm) - and we wait to hear what its findings are. In spite of some degree of improvement in openness ( as described here) what are described as "the legal and political implications" may, it is feared, prevent details of the findings of the report being made public.
    The report has been "delayed" - not altogether unexpected but this delay is "for no particular reason" we were told at about 5.00 pm.
    It seems highly unfair to IAH Pirbright to be pre-empting the findings by suggesting in the media how "angry" everyone is likely to be. The Institute has been consistently deprived of funding in recent years - partly because of the RPA debacle. Neither security nor morale can be high in such circumstances. (Like many others, we find it unfortunate that journalists must sell news by finding the most dramatic way of presenting it rather than giving balanced information at such times. The BBC used to be cherished for its fair and balanced reporting.)

August 7 2007 ~ There are 75 farms with 750 cattle, 1,500 sheep and 200 pigs in the Protection Zone - they could all be vaccinated within 24 hours

    We are reliably told that it should be possible to get the most-at-risk animals vaccinated within 24 hours using just 3 or 4 vaccination teams.. However, there is no debate on vaccination at the moment on BBC News 24. It may be felt odd, by many readers, that Prof. Pennington, an undoubted expert in his own field, is considered an authority in this field. He has apparently said that they might not have the right vaccine, as it is an imported virus. And to suggest that "we don't know which animals to vaccinate" is bizarre. We are astonished too by the words of "independent vet consultant Tony Andrews" quoted - without challenge- by the usually excellent Farmers' Weekly. The Uruguay experience in 2001 speaks for itself - but that was six years ago and things have moved on even further. Why are the newspapers not asking the real experts with practical experience in the field?
    It is unthinkable that this is because no one knowledgeable is talking urgently about it.
    It should not be forgotten that the still unlevel playing field rules that make vaccination the poor relation as far as the resumption of exports are concerned (six month wait as opposed to three months without vaccination) apply only to the carefully delineated region that has made use of emergency vaccination. It would not apply to the whole country. Does anyone dispute this? The grief and misery of both farmers involved in Surrey is very real - and the infection of this too is horribly likely to spread unless humane measure are put in place right away.
    We really do hope that DEFRA is taking blood samples regularly. In the Netherlands, blood samples of 19,000 animals have already been taken - and of course it goes without saying that this is done responsibly with precautions taken to make sure that any possible virus is not carried to the next clean farm. There are less than 3,000 animals in the most-at-risk area in Surrey.

August 7 2007 ~ Consternation that Trading Standards in the Protection Zone have told farmers they may not close footpaths

    Farmers in the Protection Zone immediately around the outbreaks have "begged" Hilary Benn and Gordon Brown to close paths - but according to the landowner, Lawrence Matthews, on whose grazed land the second outbreak has been confirmed told BBC News that there is no sign of closure at all. As he says, we don't even know which is the index case. Chris Huhne told News 24 that both he and Menzies Campbell had asked Gordon Brown on Saturday to close paths. He expressed himself "very concerned".

August 7 2007 ~ ".... if a veterinary risk assessment shows that measures additional to the basic slaughter policy were required...."

    One wonders who is giving the veterinary risk assessment here. The line above is taken from the stock reply received by those begging the CVO to begin vaccinating Here. Can the mind-set really still the same as that in 2001? After six long years of patient argument? The case for vaccinating now is so evident - and if it were done properly and swiftly there would be no need for further talk of culling on non-infected premises. Once again, we urge a thorough and patient look at the paper vaccination and transmission which was written by a world expert now at EU FMD.

August 7 2007 ~ "Who would notice the infection in deer? Does DEFRA have a plan?"

    An emailer asks some urgent questions about the effect of flooding at the Pirbright site and the likelihood that wild deer will indeed have been exposed to infection. (see also below) He asks what clearly identifiable symptoms they have - or do they, like sheep in 2001, fight off the disease without anyone noticing?
    (We understand that clinical disease is mild or inapparent in the red and fallow deer but more severe in the roe deer. The appearance and distribution of the lesions are similar to those in sheep - but see the paper cited below)
    "Who does DEFRA expect to inspect wild deer and report symptoms and to whom? What is their plan for containing the spread of FMB in deer?" Like many others, he expresses a wish for far more information to come from DEFRA. Many smaller farmers are starved of news and feel unrepresented - and are anyway are doing vital work on the farm and are far too busy taking advantage of the weather to be glued to the internet (if they even have it).
    While DEFRA is worried about stray dogs, is it logical to forget about roaming deer?

August 6/7 2007 ~ Not good news. Clinical signs found in another herd.
            NOW will you vaccinate?

    Another herd has been identified with clinical signs within the larger protection zone. Debby Reynolds has ordered that the herd be culled as soon as practicable. As an emailer comments , if as many as 39 of the Woolfords cattle really tested positive for disease "it may be that this has rumbled around longer than a week or so. That is not good news, if this small farm is not the index case."
    This is the very moment that emergency ring vaccination of all susceptible animals starting from the outside of the surveillance zone should begin. The 67 strain, now designated FMDV-O1 BFS 1860/UK/67, was particularly prone to air-borne spread and could even still be air-borne. (Rounding up the now possibly infected roe deer that roam freely in the Protection Zone and killing them all in a pen would not prove easy, either. Vaccination is now urgent and essential.)
    UPDATE: Last night about fifty cows were killed at the second farm. This brings the total already slaughtered to about 150. Samples have been "taken to a laboratory" for testing.
    We have had six years to get, validate and refine on-site rapid diagnostic tests. It has not been done. Clinical examination - even where symptoms are apparent - is no substitute for an efficient swift testing of all animals in the protection zone.
    On the theory of spread by flooding, a map-reading emailer queries whether the virus could have been carried uphill by flood water...

August 6/7 2007 ~ CNN presenter says Vaccination hides disease -

    A CNN World News Europe presenter, in covering the latest news about the FMD outbreak in the UK gave some "background information" about FMD: "the only way to stop an outbreak is by culling. Vaccination is not popular because it hides the disease". Hearing this does rather deprive one of the will to live. .. Unfortunately it is often people who direct public opinion who spout such things with such apparent authority. (Ben Bradshaw too apparently clings to this belief) - yet its repetition cannot make it any less misleading. We can only, yet again, refer to the experts on virology. When a few months ago the Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton also unwisely told the Countess of Mar (Hansard) that vaccination "could spread the disease further and thus be dangerous", Dr Colin Fink wrote
      " Mary, As I am sure that you know, this is complete and utter rubbish and shows that all the 'Virologists' invented by Fred Landeg in Page Street, in answer to a question from the Countess of Mar are a myth. DEFRA cannot be allowed to go on peddling this mis-information with such arrogance and insularity. They cannot even advise their representatives properly and know nothing of how vaccines work. You may publish this comment if you wish - I am angry about this."
    Read Dr Fink's email in full. It is important that an expert practising virologist's understanding about vaccination is seen. We also refer people again to the very important paper written for warmwell in 2001 on vaccination and transmission

August 6/7 2007 ~ Bio-security was "fairly relaxed"

    On the question of what Professor Brian Spratt may discover at Pirbright, this extract from The Dairy Farmer of August 2001 is relevant - if the same situation still exists:
      "..... Ex-Pirbright employees visited pubs at weekends, and used farm footpaths, despite a requirement of quarantine after handling viruses. They described bio-security as 'fairly relaxed'. ...
      Pirbright was experimenting with FMD virus last year. Three trials were at Level 2, and considered "mainly safe", but also listed was 'Genetic Manipulation of Foot and Mouth disease', (Ref. 53trans/1) at Levels 3 & 4. (Note the Ref numbers were the same for the two projects)
      I understand level 4 work is bio-weapons. .... "
    while a page that has been on warmwell for five years now adds authority to the extract above.
    The Western Morning News (Monday): "It seems ironic that the very institution designed to protect animal health appears to be at the centre of the latest outbreak of foot and mouth disease. We should be concerned that what has until now been seen as a world-class institution could possibly have undermined its own work. .... Brigadier Alex Birtwhistle, who was at the heart of the 2001 FMD epidemic, was right when he said that if the Government didn't get to the heart of the problem promptly 'the country will never forgive them twice'."

August 6 2007 ~ As part of Defra's contingency plan and in order to ensure full preparedness, 300,000 doses of strain-specific vaccine have been ordered from the UK's vaccine bank, to be made up from antigen. No decision has been taken on whether or not to use the vaccine.

    The Defra website gives Key points set out by Debby Reynolds Vaccination teams are to move into the area but the CVO stresses that " this is not an indication that a decision has been taken to vaccinate. It has not."
    Professor Brian Spratt will begin his review into biosecurity arrangements at the Pirbright site tomorrow. Included in the evidence will be the outcome of the immediate investigation currently being carried out by officials from the HSE, Defra, and the Veterinary Medicines Directorate. Production of vaccine will be carried out at the Merial laboratory "..obviously we would not be doing this without careful consideration and assessment of the risks. Producing vaccine from antigen does not involve use of live virus."

August 6 2007 ~" I am so fed up with the B...idiots who sent the FMD carcasses by road, 90 miles, when the rest of us have been told no movement."

    "Somehow they don't associate risk of spread with driving 90 miles through farmland with livestock in the fields." This comment has just arrived and will, no doubt, be being echoed up and down the country - particularly along the 90 mile route from Elstead to Frome. (The Farmers' Guardian report by Alastair Driver confirmed today that the slaughtered cows had indeed been sent off to the Wessex Incineration plant, at Frome. ) Another FG report today tells us that despite varying reports on the minimum length of time the movement restrictions will be in place - no timeframe has been put in place for any lifting of them.

August 6 2007 ~ "Because the animals were infected with the very vaccine strain itself, the vaccine should be the absolute perfect match."

    icWales (link mended, apologies) quotes Dr Ruth Watkins speaking today outside the Pirbright laboratory
      "..because the animals were infected with the very vaccine strain itself, the vaccine should be the absolute perfect match. the vaccine should work as well or better than any could work."
      She said vaccination is "very important", and works as well as culling.
      "I think the world was disgusted with us last time to see us kill so many animals and incinerate them (vaccination) is a way of controlling the infection and eliminating it while minimising the number of animals that have to be culled." And "If you get to economics it must be cheaper," she added.

August 6 2007 ~ 104 redundancies since 2005 - " a risk that we will lose critical expertise"

    (Correction: This may have been misleading. The 104 redundancies were in the IAH as a whole, so this presumably included Compton and Edinburgh - but the cuts are no less damaging for that)
    "Year on year, we are able to do less science or we are able to employ less people and this is an area of work that spans from foot an"d mouth through to bluetongue virus, ....We are forced to look at this whole of our activity to see where we can juggle the research, so there is a risk that we will lose critical expertise. ..." Professor Martin Shirley of Pirbright.
    In November last year, Professor Shirley was answering questions about the effect of the cuts at the Institute. Thanks again to Jo Rider who draws our attention to this extract from the Research Council Institute's Fourth Report.

August 6 2007 ~ Still much to be revealed on virus escape

    Although both Merial and Pirbright have been very definite in their horrified denials of possible breaches of security, such an escape is , as we say below, not unprecedented. A ProMed moderator in the Aug 3 posting (and an informed reader was able to give detail) recalled the 1960 virus escape from Pirbright which was the presumed cause of FMD infection on a farm one mile from Pirbright.
      "Following this incident, disease security measures were improved and air filtration was introduced to the isolation units." (Source: Animal Health, A Centenary 1865-1965, pp 149-150.)
    Rumour has also reached warmwell of air conditioning/bio security breakdowns at Merial - we think in late June this year. Depending on the ambient temperature of the facility, any 'escaped' spores would plume if it was colder outside, and could then blow miles in the wind. Anxiety remains. As for the presence of builders at the Pirbright site, Dr Paul Sutmoller, chair Animal Health Committee, ELA - European Livestock Association, has just sent us the following:
      "If I remember well, the last bio-security break at Plum Island, infecting cattle in the holding area outside the laboratory occurred during a period of major constructions going on at the main laboratory. Jack Hyde may be able to comment..."

August 6 ~ Fallen stock

    Again, thanks to the NPA website and Pat Gardner's ever eagle eyes. This is their advice to pig producers in the light of the movement restrictions
      "NPA will continue to press for burial rather than fallen stock collection. In the meantime:
    • If you can delay a collection, if only until Tuesday or Wednesday, please do. The issue may be clearer by then.
    • If you have someone who can pick up from an off-site collection area, this may not pose much risk - but the decision is yours.
    • Don't allow collection if the collector has to come on the farm. Make whatever disposal arrangements you deem most sensible given the current need for the best possible biosecurity.

August 6 ~ Start date 29/07/2007? The Saturday before the Thursday?

    There is at last a report on the OIE site Debby Reynolds has apparently reported that the "Start date" was 29/07/2007. The 29th of July? But that was the Saturday before the Thursday evening when "symptoms were reported to the local Animal Health office". Is this a mistake - or were symptoms actually noticed five days earlier? It matters.
    (Update. It has been suggested that the "start date" could be an estimate based on the assumed age of the lesions. The BBC today reports that "an investigation of the cuts on the mouths of the cows suggested that they were infected sometime between 18 and 22 July")

August 6 ~ "We need to know much, much more about Pirbright."

    The journalist Jonathan Miller, much in justifiably pugnacious evidence in 2001: "... If the questions are being asked at all, they are not being answered in public. .... It seems clear there were warnings - ignored - of an inherently unsatisfactory biosecurity environment. There seem to me also some commercial questions to consider ..... What exactly are these relationships? All these contracts are doubtless marked "commercially confidential". They will not want us to know....." Read in full
    And an email just arrived about the cuts in funding at Pirbright suggests that builders are - or were -working on the main laboratory complex. . One wonders if they too were asked to follow rules about showering and having no contact of any kind with susceptible animals for 3/5 days.
    UPDATE: We have received the following from Dr Paul Sutmoller: "If I remember well, the last bio-security break at Plum Island, infecting cattle in the holding area outside the laboratory occurred during a period of major constructions going on at the main laboratory. Jack Hyde may be able to comment. Dr Paul Sutmoller, chair Animal Health Committee, ELA - European Livestock Association"

August 6 2007 ~ "The UBI peptide-based vaccine/diagnostic system will be particularly attractive to FMD-free countries for defensive serosurveillance and for contingency plans for emergency vaccination in the event of an outbreak."

    Pirbright/Merial are not alone, of course, in producing vaccines. UBI's most advanced foot and mouth vaccine for pigs is described as having "clear-cut distinction of vaccinated from unvaccinated animals (VPI tests) and clear differentiation of vaccinated from convalescent animals". Moreover, they claim "absolute safety from biohazard risk, both during manufacture and use." (See UBI site) A similar vaccine for cattle is also under development.
    Intervet too produces modern inactivated FMD vaccines for cattle, buffalo, pigs, sheep and goats. Their vaccines of sufficient potency start to generate the first degree of protection after 2-3 days. More information - and useful, simply-expressed technical explanation is available from various pages on the Intervet website.
    We were concerned to hear that David Drew, Vice Chairman, no less, of the EFRA Select Committee was heard saying on Radio Gloucester that FMD vaccines "needed to be developed". Perhaps he was misreported but it hardly helps to give the impression that there are not already highly developed vaccines. Even those vaccines available in 2001 successfully eradicated in Uruguay an epidemic as extensive as our own when just vaccinating cattle alone led to the extinction of virus spread.
    UBI says "This growing worldwide market for FMD vaccines gives our peptide-based product potential blockbuster status" . (The suspicion is inescapable that 'potential blockbuster status' may be so coveted by UK commercial hunger that postponing UK FMD vaccination - even at a time of crisis - seems preferable to making use of a rival product.)

August 6 2007 ~ Did they shower? Did they ignore 3 or 5 day ruling?

    Within minutes of each other, two separate warmwell readers raise queries about the possibility that stringent security rules may have been ignored - or not enforced - at the Pirbright site. Email forum latest. "Surely, if it is dangerous for one of them to visit a farm within 5 days, wouldn't it also be dangerous to mingle with local farmers at a pub, or in a shop?...."

August 6 2007 ~ " the case for a humane, civilised and scientifically sound policy has strengthened over the past few years to the point where it is beginning to look unassailable"

    Magnus Linklater has kindly sent warmwell his article written for today's Times. He looks back shudderingly to six years ago when the "farming establishment closed ranks against any suggestion that there might be a more humane approach." On the question of vaccination, many readers will share our reaction to this gem:
      " I remember asking the government's chief scientist, Sir David King, to explain to me why it was not being considered. "I would need five hours to explain the science to you," he said. "Unfortunately I don't have that time." ...."
    But, " Let us not go back there, however. The fact is that there has been, since then, a sea change in attitudes within the Department ....the realisation that the science on which so many of those decisions in 2001 were based, was less sound than we were told..
    ..Again, there is no point in going back into that debate. What is important now is to record how far science has advanced in the meantime. There are accepted tests which can distinguish between infected and vaccinated animals....We know, too, that FMD "carriers" do not infect other animals... "pen-side" tests .. allow a vet to carry out on-the-spot checks to determine whether a herd of cattle or a flock of sheep have been infected, rather than having to send samples back to a laboratory. Rapid diagnosis of this kind means that biosecurity measures can be imposed immediately rather having to wait for the results of tests.
    ... vaccination can begin within that area as soon as it is available ...
    .... I cannot, hand on heart, say that the battle for the vaccine has been won. There are still those in Defra and elsewhere, who will argue for slaughter as the only effective response to this disease. But the case for a humane, civilised and scientifically sound policy has strengthened over the past few years to the point where it is beginning to look unassailable..." Read in full (or on Times website)

August 6 2007 ~ "Good that the Chair took soundings from different sectors. Less good was their reluctance to elucidate clearly the position re vaccination and on-site diagnostic testing..."

    Comment from a first hand report to warmwell from a key stakeholder who takes part in the telephone conferencing that has been going on behind the scenes. He spoke of a "far greater degree of openness and transparency" and is relieved that a formally constituted Expert Group (as opposed to an informal coincidental meeting of acquaintances) has minuted meetings available for public scrutiny - "all in large part due to the campaigning efforts of people who are likely to be reading this, whether in the UK, Brussels or further afield.." He adds that questions do remain unanswered, for example
      1. "Where it started (ok probably Merial) or when.
      2. How far it has spread by wind, water, fomites, wildlife etc
      3. Whether it was an accidental escape or other - if other, then where else?
      4. Vaccine efficacy presently unknown - as this has come from a vaccine escape, precisely what will best work against it? If a vaccine is used will NSP testing still be possible? If a suitable match can be found, how much of it is there?"
    He commented that we are heading towards the autumn at the end of a generally very wet summer - a bad time for the disease to strike. We may be in for a long haul; encouraging noises should be regarded with some scepticism - in 2001 everything was rosy until it wasn't... However, he felt that DEFRA was to be congratulated on their speedy and appropriate responses to date. "However, these may be early days...."

August 6 2007 ~ What is the difference between surveillance and protection zones

    Emails from the public now include a question from a concerned and supportive dairy farmer in the US about the difference between surveillance and protection zones. We reply that DEFRA's definition is that a "Protection Zone extends for at least 3km around the infected premises and a Surveillance Zone extends for at least 10 km around the infected premises. Within the Protection Zone all premises containing livestock will be inspected by veterinary inspectors and will be subject to restrictions. This reduces the chance of potentially infected material leaving the premises until the disease status can be determined. Within the Surveillance Zone all premises containing livestock will be subject to movement restrictions."

August 6 2007 ~ 39 animals only found positive so far. Contiguous culling instead of buffer zone vaccination is taking place

    At least 80 uninfected animals have been killed. The questions being asked everywhere - about vaccination and about why contiguous culling is already going on - do not seem to be getting clear answers. Why no buffer zone vaccination? The strain is known. Appropriate vaccine has - we assume - been produced at Merial since only the Pirbright site can be the source of the strain having escaped. Creating a buffer zone - as advised by David Holden and the Soil Association, for example (see also Peter Melchett in today's Guardian - seems the obvious and urgent thing to have done as soon as the strain was known. We are not hearing in the media any valid reasons for not doing so. Again and again we hear that emergency vaccination is being "considered". Brian Follett, interviewed on Saturday morning, said that the most important thing is "to do everything we can to stop it turning into a epidemic" and that knowing the strain was very important for a vaccination to live policy Many will be wondering why "everything we can" has not yet included vaccination since we now know only too well what the strain is.
    In the Farming Today interview with Debby Reynolds this morning we heard the good news that there are no new cases reported at present. The main thrust of the programme was to report the denials by both Merial and IAH Pirbright that the virus could have escaped because of any breach of security. Hardly the most burning question for farmers, one would have thought. Choosing not to vaccinate is a gamble. The public ought to be being told the economic and trade reasons why - even this time - pre-emptive contiguous culling is happening. Test results - that have to travel to the lab instead of being done on-site - are looked at only after the cattle are dead. Vaccination followed by differential tests would avoid this. We would again appreciate informed comment.

August 6 2007 ~"It doesn't take a conspiracy theorist to note that terrorists of various sorts would be quick to try to take advantage of any faults or lapses in standards "

    From a Leading Article in today's Independent "..... The investigations that Hilary Benn, the Secretary of State for Rural Affairs, has ordered into conditions at Pirbright and Merial will, we hope, establish whether the virus escaped from one or the other laboratory and if so, how. Possibly they will conclude that it was a freakish accident. But if they uncover lapses, the Government must act quickly to ensure that levels of biosecurity in these establishments are upgraded, and that uniform high standards are seen to prevail throughout the public and private sector. It doesn't take a conspiracy theorist to note that terrorists of various sorts would be quick to try to take advantage of any faults or lapses in standards in this field.
    Updating these facilities may take extra investment from the Government as well as from the commercial sector. So be it.."

August 5 2007 ~ This strain shows clinical signs quickly

    Latest information - not from DEFRA but from the NPA site again, following a conference call to "key stakeholders" by Hilary Benn . Extract: "01 BFS67-like virus is virulent. It has an incubation period of two to 14 days. So if any more animals are infected the clinical signs should show very soon after infection" and "Scotland has introduced a derogation allowing livestock keepers to bury fallen stock during the current crisis. NPA has urged Defra today to introduce a derogation where necessary in England......Ian Campbell told Hilary Benn today that fallen stock collection poses an unacceptable risk, but in this hot weather fallen stock will have to be disposed of quickly."

August 5 2007 ~ "Who is actually deciding what happens?"

    An email from a worried reader who evidently remembers the 1967 outbreak asks the pertinent question; "Who is actually deciding what happens?" and is confused by what seem to be conflicting media reports about vaccination and who decides. Our tentative answer can be seen here- but we welcome further informed comment.
.

August 5 2007 ~ New on DEFRA

    There is now an amended Declaration and new amoeba-shaped map with its second nucleus to take in Pirbright - "making a new Protection Zone and extending the Surveillance Zone. The previous declaration (made at 22.00 last night) also remains in force." A news release tells us that at Woolfords farm the killing was completed yesterday. 38 of the unfortunate cattle are described as infected, and of the cattle killed on the 2 additional sites of Woolfords Farm, one gave a positive result. The release gives news of the other animals we reported yesterday as having been killed as 'dangerous contacts'
    The language of the Declaration seems unfortunate - something we have mentioned before. Instead of offering clarity and support, the tone is officious: "Failure to comply with this Declaration may be an offence under section 72 or 73 of the Animal Health Act 1981". As many of us are all too aware, sections 72 and 73 of the revised Animal Health Act threaten " imprisonment for any term not exceeding 2 months" for failure to cooperate with any one deemed by DEFRA to be an "official". Rather grim. We shall be shortly posting up what you are now compelled to do if the worst happens on your farm.

August 5 2007 ~ "Competence means more than ministerial dashes and urgent meetings..lessons also include being ready to vaccinate"

    A leading article in the Sunday Times: "The inquiry that followed the 2001 outbreak, chaired by Dr Iain Anderson, catalogued the government's lack of preparedness and eventual panic. Those lessons include some of the measures that have already been taken: an immediate restriction on animal movements and the closure of events where the disease could be passed on. They also include being ready to vaccinate to prevent the spread of the disease, whatever the residual objections from the farm lobby.
    Farming is a tiny part of Britain's economy, just 1%. We should nurture our farmers ..."

August 5 2007 ~ Confusion about the virus strain

    A strain called "O1/BFS 1860/UK/67" - which appears to be an amalgam of the two names we have heard from The DEFRA site and the IAH site that links to it - appears on this 2005 Molecular Epidemiology Report Form from Pirbright. Is this then the strain of the virus that caused the 1967 outbreak in the UK? Or is it that the 67 virus is used for comparison? Can anyone enlighten us?
    UPDATE: The FMD virus which caused the 1967-8 outbreak in the UK was designated FMDV-O1 BFS 1860/UK/67; its detailed sequencing data and references are available in the table "Foot-and-Mouth Disease Virus O" at IAH's website www.iah.bbsrc.ac.uk

August 5 2007 ~ "What is the function of a World Reference Laboratory... if not to advance the detection of virus infection and management of FMD epidemics?"

    . The closeness - in all senses of the word - between Merial and Pirbright has suddenly been thrust into the light of day. In her Submission to the Royal Society of Edinburgh FMD EnquiryDr Ruth Watkins said, " Though funding may have delimited the equipment at Pirbright, the failure to modernise is likely to arise from the outlook in the laboratory- Pirbright has an unchallenged monopoly on FMD work in both research and diagnosis in Britain.....The normal role of a reference laboratory is to provide control materials and facilitate the setting up of routine screening and diagnostic tests in other laboratories..another important role is the validation of diagnostic tests including commercial tests and publishing the results with the collaboration of the commercial companies.
    Pirbright has confined itself to in-house tests, producing the materials and developing its own protocols. It has refused to undertake validation of commercial FMD tests ..... There is no other laboratory in Britain that is allowed or could undertake to validate FMD tests.."
    If Pirbright - once a public service laboratory - has been forced by its financial strait-jacket into throwing in its commercial lot with Merial this raises questions about unfair competition and the suppression of other technologies and products that could be of enormous value in UK disease control. We should welcome comments.

August 5 2007 ~ Pirbright: "... limited use of the strain at the Institute in recent weeks."

    At a press conference IAH director Martin Shirley said that "...there had also been limited use of the strain at the institute in recent weeks." (BBC)
    A correspondent notes that IAH conducted an experiment in 2003 where the O1 BFS 1860 strain was inoculated into 4 Standard Compton steers. This strain, he points out, is that identified by the IAH as the exact strain responsible for the Surrey outbreak.
    After giving the reference for the experiment he asks, "Could this kind of experimentation be classified as "limited use"? He adds, "Unfortunately this kind of question hasn't been asked yet.."

August 5 2007 ~ Accidents Happen - Security Breaches at Biocontainment Facilities

    There have been documented instances of escaping dangerous pathogens in the past few years. One remembers too the May 2001 prosecution of Imperial College (home of Prof. Roy Anderson) for its lapses in safety precautions while dealing with a modified Hepatitis C virus. Even the most "secure" biocontainment may not be as secure as all that. It is easy for complacency to creep in - and when funding is cut by those who do not understand the risks, people of lesser calibre have to be promoted to responsible positions. Low morale and sloppy procedures can easily be the result. How ironic then that, when in 2001 Dr Colin Fink offered his molecular diagnostic systems to help relieve pressure on government labs, DEFRA and the VLA refused to supply his team with the non-infectious FMD material needed to calibrate his assay. The excuse was that FMD was a Category 4 organism and therefore only to handled in absolutely bio-secure facilities. . In fact, as Dr Fink points out in a recent letter to warmwell, he did not need any infectious virus. "...this was nonsense. Once the RNA is extracted the organism has no infectious risk....The confusion was because of out-moded thinking aligning a risk in growing up organisms within the laboratory with that wrongly perceived to be similar in molecular diagnostics..."
    It was a lost opportunity for rapid diagnosis during the outbreak - and the irony of yesterday's news will not have escaped those whose who felt such frustration at the time.

August 5 2007 ~ Humane slaughter?

    In 2001 there were scenes of slaughter that made the farmer's grief - already terrible in many cases - far worse. Incidences of chaos and stress during the gathering, penning, and slaughter of animals are disturbing. There was 'barbaric conduct [which] was a disgrace to humanity', as one of the EU inquiries has been told (Carnage by Computer: The Blackboard Economics of the 2001 foot and mouth epidemic by Professors David Campbell and Robert Lee)
    That was then; this is now - but the Hendersons in Brecon are not the only people to have wondered about the slaughter of the 64 cattle at Woolfords Farm. "....as far as I can work it out, that they could have been killed is to be shot at by people standing outside the pen....surely that does not constitute humane slaughter?"
    The public is right to be concerned and want to be reassured that the Terrestrial Animal Health Code - 2006 guidelines (Appendix 3.7.6. Guidelines for the killing of animals for disease control purposes) really are being followed to the letter.

August 5 2007 ~ Lawrence Wright notices an anomaly

    A West country sheepfarmer makes a startling point - and one that we had noticed only subconsciously. See emails sent to warmwell.

August 5 2007 ~ Deer do not obey movement bans - and roe deer move between Pirbright and local farms.

    "Roe deer occur widely on Surrey's commons, and were even recorded on quite small sites in relatively built-up areas": (DEFRA funded wildlife project pdf) . The A31, inside the 3km exclusion zone, had to be disinfected yesterday because a deer was hit by a car. Woolfords farm is separated from Pirbright by an arable farm, a wood and a golf course. It does not take much imagination to predict that any escape of the O1 BFS 1860 virus from IAH Pirbright or the Merial laboratory could now be infecting these deer.
    In their paper "Foot-and-Mouth Disease in Deer: implications for the policy of control and eradication of the disease" Paul Sutmoller and Paul Gibbs suggest that if deer are infected then
      " all livestock in the area should be vaccinated or re-vaccinated, preferably within three months to obtain an optimum population immunity. Re-population of the area with vaccinated livestock does not need to wait for the infection to peter out in deer. d) The official opinion that FMD infected roe deer constitute a low risk, because sick animals hide and probably die, is not valid. Like cattle or sheep, susceptible deer are very infectious prior to the development of lesions while they still actively move and graze. Also deer with sub-clinical or minor lesions will still roam around."
    In considering their next move it is to be hoped that the relevant authorities are aware of such expert advice. This paper too, written for warmwell during the last outbreak by a scientist who soon afterwards rose to a high position in the FAO, should be essential reading for those who want to know the real facts about vaccination and transmission of virus.

August 4 2007 10.26 p.m. ~ It is a vaccine strain 01 BFS 67 (Correction:it is in fact O1 BFS 1860) - one that was being used at Pirbright in July

    Professor Hugh Pennington interviewed on BBC News 24 gives as his opinion that the source virus is identical to that in vaccine work being done at Pirbright and very possibly escaped from there. The latest statement by DEFRA :
      "The FMD strain found in Surrey is not one currently known to be recently found in animals. It is most similar to strains used in international diagnostic laboratories and in vaccine production, including at the Pirbright site shared by the Institute of Animal Health (IAH) and Merial Animal Health Ltd, a pharmaceutical company. The present indications are that this strain is a 01 BFS67 - like virus, isolated in the 1967 Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak in Great Britain.
      This strain is present at the IAH and was used in a batch manufactured in July 2007 by the Merial facility. On a precautionary basis Merial has agreed to voluntarily halt vaccine production.
      In response to this new information Debby Reynolds, Chief Veterinary Officer has instructed that a new single Protection Zone be created encompassing both the infected farm premises and the Pirbright site, with a single 10km radius Surveillance Zone. ..." DEFRA site
    This does rather appear to want to point the finger at Merial (see below) rather than the Government Laboratory at Pirbright as the source of the leak. ( We can only hope that this extraordinary news may allow farmers further afield to breathe a little more easily - but this is little comfort for those directly affected by what looks like an embarrassing lapse of security.)

August 4 2007 9.45 p.m. ~ "no plans for contiguous culling at present but any dangerous contacts will be dealt with robustly". Pigs, sheep and goats on an adjacent smallholding have been slaughtered as "dangerous contacts"

    There is still no more news on the DEFRA site. However, NPA's Digby Scott on the news page of the NPA website: ".....NPA, BPEX and Defra will be helping me communicate all the available news that might be of use to the pig sector.
      "....The infection in the beef herd at the centre of the alert is almost certainly recent. The last movement onto the farm was in early July and the last movement off was on July 10 when two animals went for slaughter....Pigs may be implicated. Next to the farm - divided only by a barbed wire fence - is a smallholding with sheep, goats and pigs. These animals have been killed as dangerous contacts...Defra is keen to free up movement when it is sensible. If no further infection is found it is possible some movements under licence will be allowed from Tuesday or Wednesday...
      ..There are no plans for contiguous culling at present but any dangerous contacts will be dealt with robustly."
    (While we are grateful for this to the NPA, who are evidently privy to DEFRA's latest news, we do feel concern for the smallholders and others who appear to have no official source of information at this nerve-racking time. We now know that there was no FMD found on these "dangerous contact" animals on the smallholding and they were killed purely as a "precaution". Whether this was necessary or not is perhaps a matter of opinion.)

August 4 2007 9.20 p.m. ~ Intervet UK: " If requested, we will provide the government with any necessary assistance to bring the outbreak under control."

    A link provided by FMD News - a service provided by the FMD Surveillance and Modeling Laboratory, University of California at Davis is this from United Business Media.
      Jim Hungerford, General Manager at Intervet UK, comments on the foot and mouth outbreak in Surrey: "We support the government's rapid response and hope that this prompt action will quickly quell the current outbreak. Defra has acted swiftly in identifying the disease and establishing the required restrictions, which will help to prevent any further spread of the virus. If requested, we will provide the government with any necessary assistance to bring the outbreak under control... we believe vaccination should be used if the outbreak develops further."
    (It may be remembered that Jim Henderson very kindly answered warmwell's questions about bird flu vaccines a short while ago.)

August 4 2007 (5.50 pm) ~ " I must say, interviewing the chief vet I had a distinct sense of deja vu.." - Snowmail

    " In 2001, they all started off telling us it was too soon to vaccinate. Then after a few days they told us it was too late. They claim the same won't happen again..." Krishnan Guru-Murthy Channel 4
    The DEFRA foot and mouth page is disappointingly short of news today when so many people across the country are anxious for information about possible vaccination and answers to questions such as those below. We understand that rumours are rife that the infected cows may have come from Cumbria - and that disinfectant supplies have been sold out in Penrith - and it is precisely for such reasons that hard news should be being shared as soon as it is available.

August 4 2007 (4.50 pm) ~ Debby Reynolds has confirmed that the biosecurity arrangements at the Pirbright Laboratory are being investigated as a possible source of the foot-and-mouth disease outbreak.

    A relief that it was no less a person than the CVO who mentioned this possibility.
    The Farmers Guardian: "...At a Defra briefing at 3.15pm today (Saturday), Mrs Reynolds said it was too early to favour any hypothesis of where the disease might have come from over another. But she said: "Pirbright has been asked to review its biosecurity arrangements."
    (Not mentioned by the FG is the fact that Merial, the pharmaceutical company whose research work into FMD etc also requires biocontainment facilities, is very close.)

August 4 2007 ~ " We are really hoping that supermarkets make sure that their buyers and supplier processors act more responsibly this time...

    This is truly not a time for exploitation." An email from a sheep farmer - far from optimistic. Comments welcome.

August 4 2007 ~ The UK's refusal to use vaccination for FMD has been on economic rather than on scientific or veterinary grounds.

    That vaccination and rapid on-site diagnosis works so effectively was proved in Uruguay in 2001 where an outbreak as extensive as in the UK was - without massive stamping-out - quickly brought under control. But the OIE's International Animal Health Code, adopted by the WTO as the basis for protectionism under the guise of disease control, gives countries without FMD and choosing not to vaccinate - i.e.European and North American farmers - a huge trading advantage over poorer countries. A historic reluctance in the UK to vaccinate animals against FMD was thus solidified.( page 15 of "The Foot and Mouth Outbreak 2001:Lessons Not Learned pdf by - Professor David Campbell and Professor Bob Lee explains this clearly.) The decision in 2001 to hold fast to this led to the immense costs of the mass killing policy and the knock-on effects that it entailed - all in order to protect meat exports. It is interesting then that Bernard Vallat, Director General of the OIE, has now come out so strongly in favour of vaccination.

August 4 2007 ~ EU Directive "It may be decided to introduce emergency vaccination where at least one of the following conditions applies"

    The latest EU Directive specifies that vaccination is to be used as front-line tool against the disease. The language of the Directive, in the manner of these things, is hardly comprehensible. However, it is worth looking again at Annex X of the "EU COUNCIL DIRECTIVE 2003/85/EC of 29 September 2003 on Community measures for the control of foot-and-mouth disease (repealing Directive 85/511/EEC and Decisions 89/531/EEC and 91/665/EEC and amending Directive 92/46/EEC )" where, for once, the table set out is simple and clear enough for anyone in DEFRA to understand.
    Where "Public reaction to total stamping out policy" is "strong", the Directive advises vaccination.

August 4 2007 3.40 pm ~ More quotes "We would not stand in any way to object to vaccination.."

    Peter Kendall, president of NFU : "Certainly as an industry we would not stand in any way to object to vaccination if the scientists deem it the right way of moving forward." (Today Programme)
    Chris Huhne( Liberal Democrat environment spokesman): "The Government deserves congratulation for learning the lessons of its shambolic response to the devastating 2001 crisis by stopping all animal movements and preparing for vaccination of surrounding herds as soon as the virus is identified. A clear lesson of the last outbreak was the need for speedy vaccination, so the isolation of the virus and a potential matching with banks of vaccine will be key."
    Philip Lymbery, Compassion In World Farming's Chief Executive, " The Government must consider emergency vaccination of animals in affected areas to help control the disease and prevent healthy animals being slaughtered needlessly" (CIWF)
    Jackie Ballard : "Everything must be done to make sure we do not see a return to the appalling mass slaughter of farm animals that occurred during the last outbreak. There was widespread public revulsion at the funeral pyres and mass killing, and animal welfare seemed to be the lowest priority for the authorities. That must not be allowed to happen again." (See The Argus)
    Bernard Vallat, Director General of the OIE :"....profitability should not be a priority when vaccination policies are established. Vaccination, when available, is undoubtedly the most cost-effective means of preventing and controlling, and even eradicating, infectious diseases. .... Unfortunately, there are several barriers to the development of new vaccines: economic barriers such as ... regulatory hurdles due the stringent and non-harmonised regulations in place for vaccine registration .." (below)

August 4 2007 4.00 pm ~ EU member countries have imposed a ban on animals and animal products imported from the UK.

    There is an automatically imposed ban on exports within the European Union following the discovery of FMD. In a statement, the European Commission said it would adopt an emergency decision on Monday "concerning restrictions on the movement of animals and the dispatch of products from the U.K." EU veterinary experts will meet next Wednesday to evaluate the UK foot and mouth outbreak.
    The Farmers Guardian reports that Eblex head of marketing Andrew Garvey said that shipments on this side of the Channel had been recalled, but the situation was less clear for those already in transit across the water.
      "It depends on the recipient country. Some may return the shipment, others may accept it," said Mr Garvey, who added there had also been live animal shipments in the past few weeks of calves and sheep and that these were now being traced to their destination country. "The action to be taken on these is not clear at the current time." The ban on exports will last for a minimum of three months from the time the UK is declared free of the disease, although Mr Garvey said it was possible that, if the outbreak at Wanborough, Surrey, proved to be an isolated incident, that the ban may be treated regionally, as had happened with the classical swine fever outbreak in 2000."

August 4 (2.20 p.m.) ~ The FMD infected carcases will be travelling to Somerset - even though there are incineration plants nearer to Guildford.

    The Farmers Guardian was told on this morning that culled animals were due to be shipped to Wessex Incinerators in Frome, despite the fact there were incineration plants nearer to the Guildford Farm.
    "Somerset NFU Council delegate Derek Mead said he had also heard the rumour and that it was an 'absolute disgrace' if the diseased carcases were going to be travelling across the country.' "Is Defra trying to spread the disease?," he asked. Wessex incinerators refused to confirm or deny the claim."

August 4 2007 (2.15 pm) ~ 3,000 sheep are stranded at Thame Auction Mart - precisely where the rapid on-site diagnostic kit would be so invaluable.

    There are, inevitably, animals stranded at shows. All the same, executive secretary of the Livestock Auctioneers Association, Chris Dodds, has praised DEFRA's rapid response compared to last time. The Farmers Guardian: "3,000 sheep are stranded at Thame Auction Mart ... ... vets were starting to inspect the sheep this morning, ready for them to be moved off the site...." But, as we remember from last time, clinical examination is useless in most cases with sheep.
    This is, as we have been trying to point out for six years now, precisely where the rapid on-site diagnostic kit would be so invaluable.
    A number of shows around the country have also been caught up in the movement ban, with showing animals which arrived last night now being held for inspection. Perth Show has some Charolais cattle on site
    Garstang Show, Lancashire also has beef animals being held for inspection.
    Dumfries and Turriff shows are both going ahead but without ruminants or pigs.
    Cockermouth and District Show, due to have been held today, has been cancelled.
    Brecon Show had some sheep and cattle on site, but these have now been cleared and removed from the site.
    Tockwith Show, which had moved to the Great Yorkshire Showground at Harrogate, was due to have sheep and goats present.
    For stock being held for inspection, a movement licence must be issued before the stock can be removed, and the animals must then be returned to their holding and placed in quarantine." See Farmers Guardian

August 4 2007 (1.15pm) ~ "The 1.7 million tonnes of waste food that before 2001 was being recycled by swill feeders was diverted to landfill..."

    Robert Persey wonders, "....Has this disease outbreak come from a landfill site or from one of the meat composting sites that the State Veterinary Service is supposed to be monitoring? The Government is diverting large amounts of category three meat into composting sites even though the risk assessment it commissioned identified that there was a risk of disease escaping from these sites. ..."

August 4 2007 (1.15pm) ~ "Once the strain has been identified, experts will check to see whether relevant vaccines are available in the British or European vaccine banks."Guardian

    Some quotations today:
    ".....Peter Ainsworth, the shadow Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs: "It is essential the Gov-ernment acts quickly to contain this and considers all possible options, including vaccination." ..." Belfast Telegraph
    Sir Menzies Campbell: "Alternatives, like vaccination, to the terrible pyres of smoke which stained the countryside last time must be actively explored, but in the end the government will have to follow the best scientific advice." BBC
    Neil Parish MEP: "....Defra needs to be sure that the farmers in the area do know what's happening ..." BBC
    Debby Reynolds CVO: "our response to this disease is in animal health terms, it's in farming terms..." BBC
    Peter Kindersley: "Obviously we believe very strongly in vaccination. Individual farms should have the right to decide what measures to take."