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From Private Eye May 18th 2001
All science, law and truth have been chucked out of the window.
Control of the epidemic is now being driven solely by politics and the government spin-machine. And it is interesting that one of Mr Blair's chief collaborators in this has been Prof Anderson himself, whose past record, as is revealed elsewhere in this issue, scarcely inspires total confidence.
As for what this crisis is doing for ministers' own grasp on the truth, a
tiny example was a petulant answer given by agriculture minister Nick Brown when being grilled by the BBC's John Humphrys over how MAFF is now fiddling the figures. Brown was clearly floundering as Humphrys produced one piece of evidence after another to show how MAFF had shamelessly changed the basis on which its figures are calculated, basing this on a newspaper article by an expert on the crisis, Dr Richard North.
Brown's only response was to launch a personal attack on North for having six years ago organised opposition to the setting up of MAFF's notorious Meat Hygiene Service, as if this alone discredited anything he had to say about foot-and-mouth.
What Brown omitted to mention was that the most conspicuous expression of that opposition to the MHS was a Commons motion signed by more than 100 MPs of all parties. The name at the head of that motion, as Nick Brown well knew, was Tony Blair.
Letter to Private Eye
Thankyou for your article giving background information on prof Roy
"sheep killer " Anderson. A man who had previously been conspicuous by his
absence from media criticism of the handling of the foot and mouth crisis.
It is hard to understand why the government and maff are still
persisting in their dogmatic implementation of the Anderson "inspired" contiguous cull policy, especially when it has been so comprehensively rubbished by some of the worlds leading experts on FMD. Including Dr Alex Donaldson and Dr Paul Kitching, of IAH Pirbright Lab, and Prof Fred Brown of the USDA.
Donaldson has shown that the contiguous cull is unjustifiable with regard
to disease control in his articles in the Vetinary Record of the 12th
May. Both Dr Donaldson and Fred Brown have conducted experiments which demonstrate that aerosol spread from the O strain of virus is minimal under UK field conditions. In a worse case scenario it would take 100 sheep all showing symptoms symultainiously to cause infection by aerosol spread to a maximum distance of 200 metres.
Despite overwhelming evidence from these eminent men, maff and the govt.
have chosen to adopt the 48 hour contiguous cull policy advocated by
Professor Roy Anderson of imperial college. A man who has no veterinary
experience and no specialist knowledge of FMD.
Anderson was "parachuted " in to Tony Blairs FMD think tank when it
became clear that MAFF were failing, and Blair was desperate to get Foot an
Mouth out of the way by election time. It was apparent that, due to the extent
of the outbreak, and the length of time FMD had remained undetected, the
outbreak was going to have a long "tail". Anderson's radical proposals
must have seemed like an attractive way of reducing the chance of embarrassing future flare ups of the disease .
Ironically, an article by Woolhouse et al(including Donaldson) in Nature
(May 17), states that the epidemic was already "under control" by the
time Anderson's policy was implemented. Under control, by Anderson's own definition, meaning that every infected premises discovered gives rise
to less than one further infected premises, so the disease is on a downward
curve. I believe the govt. panicked, and instigated Anderson's policy
without considering the logistic and environmental problems posed by such wide scale slaughter and disposal of livestock.
Tony Blair and Nick Brown did not reach their current positions by being
stupid, as the evidence against the contiguous cull mounts up they must
be aware that they have made a terrible mistake. It is not just the fact
that the have slaughtered too many animals, a lot of the electorate probably
don't care about this, it is the wider implications of the unnecessary
and unjustified contiguous cull; the pollution of drinking water with BSE
prions, cancer causing dioxins from pyres, the near bankruptcy of whole sections of the tourist industry, which are almost inconceivable. This has to rank
as one of the biggest scandals in British political history. To make a U
turn in policy so close to the election would be political suicide. Tantamount
to admitting they were wrong all along, that they killed millions of
healthy animals and wasted millions of pounds of taxpayers money for nothing.
Try putting as positive spin on that.
They can't. So they cynically continue with the needless destruction of
the lifes work of decent hard working people, just to satisfy their own
desire for a second term.
Although Iam a farmer, I have never voted conservative (or new labour),
I am not concerned with the politics of this, I simply feel that I must
speak out against the kind of abject cynicism that allows millions of healthy
animals to be slaughtered needlessly for the sake of short term political
gain. In my opinion if Tony Blair isn't man enough to admit he was wrong,
then he isn't fit to be prime minister. A simplistic view I know, but I
am a simple son of the soil after all.
I think Blair is aware that this is a real problem, he may be able to
sweep it under the carpet as far as the election is concerned, but it may yet
come back to haunt him. He knows that Roy Anderson, a thoroughly unpleasant and arrogant man by all accounts, has dropped him in it, an 'insider ' tells me that during a briefing with Anderson and chief scientist David King,
when Anderson left the room Blair said: "that man is a b**tard and a
So much for Roy's knighthood then, unless of course Gordon Brown gives
him one in recognition of his contribution to shafting Tony.
Private Eye this week: "...Blair's favourite academic, Prof Roy Anderson.., who created the computer model used by MAFF to claim that the number of foot and mouth cases would fall to zero by 7 June, thus allowing the PM to call an election for that very date........Back in 1987 Anderson was invited by Norways PM, Brundtland, to help produce an "independent assessment" of how many minke whales Norwegians could sustainably kill every year......The IWC had introduced a moratorium.....Brundtland feared would lose her support... Surprise, surprise...Anderson etc came up with exactly the figure - 200 whales - which the whalers thought thye needed to make a profit. ....... A mathematical biologist on the IWC's scientific committee went through the algebra and discovered "fundamental flaws in the methodology": Anderson and his chums had achieved the result Brundtland wanted, ie a "safe" catch of 200, only by creating wholly unreal (indeed "impossible") parameters........."