You will know that I have been finding the Stakeholder Consultation Process interesting but frustrating. .....
I think most persons present are self-censoring, either because they are responsible to or for a Body which they do not want to let down (they may have other issues on the go with DEFRA), for fear of losing a seat at the table, or because they were the architects of the 2001 policy.
Is there any progress? Only time will tell. Under the Animal Health Act, DEFRA now have the power to carry out massive firebreak culls, subject only to the Page Street / Pirbright scientists briefing the Minister on why they believe such is necessary; he or she will then be obliged to make a short statement to Parliament stating that, …‘following best professional advice, he/she has decided….’ - although he/she will have to give reasons for not vaccinating.
That is the Constitutional Safeguard; in the light of the recent GM announcements (to proceed ahead of the Trials’ conclusion and Public Debate), perhaps not one to inspire overmuch confidence.
That said, the OIE seem to have bent over backwards to accommodate the progressive things that we have been saying, as have the Royal Society and the EU Temporary Standing Committee, and apparently, the EU and UK Ministers similarly. None of them wants a repeat of 2001, and all emphasise the role of vaccination at the forefront of defence, alongside culling of infected and D/C stock. Ministers, of course, are notoriously transient, unlike the Civil Servants who will actually implement the Controls in 5, 15 or 30 years time.
However, what one might term 'reactionary forces' present at the meetings seem determined to undermine this process of change, completely unwilling to reappraise the new technology, and as resolved to not allow the Policy to be changed as we are to move it forward.
Individuals are very difficult to identify, because there is so much common agreement – 2001 was awful, must not happen again, etc etc., and in the very short time allowed at these Meetings it is difficult to ascertain the divergent ground.
To this end myself and another, now joined by more and encouraged by anonymous others, have formed a ‘Stakeholder Communication Group’, to facilitate inter- and intra- Stakeholder Communication, so that we can liaise over simple and complex issues and extend the Debate outside the 2 allocated hours. DEFRA are copied in so it is neither secret nor anti-DEFRA.
This process, along with the Stakeholder ‘Innovation Monitoring’ Group, were proposed at the Stakeholder Meeting of January 30th, but were deemed by the Chair a little premature. Various Stakeholders disagreed and so the former group was born...
I am writing this for you to place in the public domain because:-
1) Many people in Government and the Civil Service appreciate steps that will allow vaccination and progressive technology to be used next time.
2) We cannot afford to lose potentially valuable input from interested parties.
3) To invite DEFRA to facilitate Stakeholder Communications and Innovation Monitoring Groups, thereby unlocking the potential for good contained therein. STOP PRESS – I have just been notified by DEFRA that this will be an Agenda item at our forthcoming Meeting.
4) I am satisfied that no Confidential material is being inappropriately displayed.
In response to challenges regarding the composition of the Stakeholder Group Consultees, DEFRA have to-day sent out a further communication which concludes:-
If you are aware of any other organisation or individuals who would like to participate in this consultation please let …………….. know so that a copy of these papers can be sent to them.
I have deleted the name and e-mail address to prevent swamping, but it will be readily found on DEFRA’s website, or you can route inquiries back to me. I have taken the liberty of flagging this up as I am sure it is genuine; the issues to do with post-vaccination treatment of meat, for example, are so complex that a few more heads would be useful.
The EU (Draft) Directive requires HMG to be able to implement an emergency vaccination programme, whether Protective or Suppressive; it does not, however, require that we do so, and the very ‘late’ backstop ‘trigger’ that would require us to (IF FOR TWO DAYS THE 24/48 CULL OBJECTIVE HAS NOT BEEN MET) is being argued against as being too prescriptive, and a derogation sought. What (mandatory) trigger should we have if any?
I think we could all agree that a Derogation should be built in to the Legislation to cover the eventuality of a new strain for which no vaccine exists, so that failure to vaccinate under those circumstances would not be a de facto default .
However, until the commercial interests of those who would lose or believe that they would lose from a vaccinaton policy are identified and addressed, it will be immensely difficult to overcome their powerful resistance. As one Stakeholder informed me at the last meeting, it took the Royal Navy 70 years from the time that it was proven that (Vitamin C in) fresh fruit and vegetables prevented Scurvy before the Admiralty ordered the provision of Limes, and we are up against the same mind-set; or, if I may borrow your own analogy Mary, how long did it take for success in the campaign for the Abolition of Slavery ?
As the aforementioned Stakeholder pointed out, we must persevere because there is this window of opportunity to make progress; we have achieved a lot – with the EU, the different Reports, the OIE, very helpful considerations from the RCVS etc. – but until we have found a way to ensure markets for vaccinated product, and identified and compensated those with most to lose from a cessation of exports such as specialist Bloodstock breeders etc ( Duke of Westminster for example), we will have worked for two years to achieve nothing of any useful consequence next time!