....Now to return to the Forum on FMD Control held in Bristol on Saturday.

We sent out our report on these proceedings yesterday but had no time left to add our personal impressions - so here is "our comment"!

It was wonderful to meet in person so many people whom we have "known" for so long as E-mail contacts. We won't list everyone here but it really helps to be able to put faces to names! So the informal discussions were valuable for this alone. The same applies to the speakers, whose names are so familiar to us and whose work we have read avidly; to meet them and hear them in person was to complete the experience.

We have long held the view that the risk from carrier animals, or recovered animals showing antibodies, is zero in practical terms. Yet our own UK scientists are constantly describing this "threat" from sheep, using such language as "silent shedders of virus" or attributing new outbreaks to "old disease in sheep". We have repeatedly asked for scientific evidence to support such statements but none has been produced, while there is plenty to discount such accusations. At the Forum, it was made very clear that the scientific evidence all points to only one conclusion - to quote Dr Paul Sutmoller "All experimental evidence of FMD virus transmission by carrier sheep is negative". We discussed this with him in person afterwards and he dismissed such statements as "silent shedders" and "old disease" as nonsense. He confirmed that the disease is not self-sustaining in sheep and peters out naturally if left alone.

Once again, we are left asking the same questions - why are David King, Jim Scudamore and other UK scientists telling deliberate lies? Why are they so determined to eliminate sheep that cannot pose any threat of re-infection? Why do they continue to refute the proven and documented efficiency of vaccination? Why did they refuse to trial the "Smart Cycler" device for rapid FMD diagnosis when Fred Brown offered it on 9th March? And so on . . . . .

We don't have the answers to these questions but we are certain, now, about one thing - the slaughter policy has nothing whatever to do with disease control in the current epidemic. All the science is telling us that vaccination should have been used at a very early stage of the epidemic, and would certainly have dramatically reduced the scale of the slaughter, the economic and environmental costs, the human and animal suffering, and the duration of the outbreak. Instead, the slaughter policy was imposed by a government that repeatedly claimed to be following "the best scientific advice"; they, too, are liars to their own electorate, just as the Dutch government deceived its people over the slaughter of vaccinates.

No thinking person attending this forum could have returned home without a clear grasp of the basic science behind vaccination against FMD. It was all presented in straightforward terms that anyone could understand.

The question/discussion session revealed the problems that this was causing to some farmers, including NFU representatives, in the audience - their deeply-entrenched prejudices had been challenged so effectively that they could only bluster about the political consequences for trade. This, of course, is the real issue, and has been all along. No-one can seriously question that vaccination works, but the economic consequences within the EU were deliberately set against its use in 1991. That is the issue which must be addressed, not for next time, but right now.