From Alan Beat at smallholders.org.uk

EDITORIAL

This is a special issue of the newsletter to bring some important information to your attention.

As you know, Mary Marshall has been representing smallholders at the regular DEFRA stakeholder meetings in Page Street, London, for a long time now. Mary has travelled within the UK, to Europe and the USA to attend a number of high-level gatherings of veterinary scientists, and has built on the personal contacts made at these meetings by regular e-mail correspondence with some of the leading authorities in this field. Through her own efforts, she has become extremely well-informed in developments on both sides of the Atlantic, and has generously shared this knowledge with others when appropriate - never in an aggressive manner, but always quietly and courteously, often outside the formal meetings to avoid public confrontation and encourage the private acceptance of different ideas.

Her reward for many months of painstaking research and gentle persuasion is to have been increasingly sidelined by DEFRA.

We have enormous respect for Mary, and admire the discreet manner in which she has tried so hard to encourage progress within DEFRA based on current scientific knowledge. However, that admiration was tempered with our deep cynicism of any so-called "consultation" process, and now even Mary's apparently limitless patience with DEFRA has finally run out. Exasperated by the lack of any significant shift from the disastrous policies of the 2001 foot and mouth epidemic, she has now prepared a hard-hitting critique of DEFRA's contingency plan for FMD, and this is given in full below.

Please don't make the mistake of thinking that this is just another complaint about what happened two years ago. It isn't. This is about the scientific advances that are desperately needed within our animal health framework, not just for FMD, but for a whole range of diseases that increasingly threaten UK livestock. There are important implications for human health too, for much the same science is essential to counter terrorist threats like anthrax, smallpox and other biological weapons. But instead of moving forward to make best use of existing and emerging technologies, DEFRA seem resolute in their opposition to change.

Just ask yourself, what has been their immediate response to recent or threatened animal disease outbreaks? BSE - kill. FMD - kill. TB - kill. Brucellosis - kill. Scrapie - kill. Rabies - kill (they are actually field-testing fox poisons right now). Are we living in the 21st century, or the 19th?

The Royal Society report of last year made specific recommendation that a viable emergency vaccination strategy for FMD should be in place before the end of 2003. With only a matter of months now remaining, the evidence of DEFRA's published contingency plan is that virtually no progress towards this goal has been achieved.

Please read Mary's paper carefully, and circulate it as widely as you can to the farming, veterinary, scientific and political communities, in addition to the media. There must now be an open and informed public debate that will force DEFRA to address these issues. By all means let's encourage the development of better tools, but that must not delay the effective use of those we already have.

Alan & Rosie

From Mary Marshall:

I go to the Stakeholders meetings (unless/until they kick me out), representing smallholders, so please, readers, send in your comments and concerns so that (when I am allowed to!) I can speak for you.

The last meeting was only allocated two hours to cover several important topics, including rare breeds, zoos and emergency vaccination. This certainly does not allow for proper discussion, and scarcely justifies the long and expensive journey for some of us. And remember that consultation is an EU requirement!


Comments on Defra's Foot and Mouth Disease Contingency Plan, Version 2.5

See extracts published on warmwell