Minutes Committee meeting - 26 march

The experience in the United Kingdom

 

Speech of Mr Nick Brown - Minister for Agriculture of the U.K. during the FMD crisis .

 

FMD disease in Great Britain had never known such a breadth. 4 million animals were cut down for a cost of 23.7 billion which accounts for 0.2% of the GDP. When disease was discovered, the United Kingdom counted already 50 cases. The control of the disease had three weeks delay.

The option of vaccination was not selected because the English food industry was not ready to use the vaccinated livestock products. Scotland had made the request that if vaccination were effective, the vaccinated livestock products had to have special labelling. Moreover by the absence of powerful vaccines, it would have been impossible to differentiate the sick animals of the healthy animals.

We applied an emergency plan which had been given up to date in July 2000. During desease, we reinforced the veterinary services with 7000 civilians and 2000 soldiers. Whereas the epidemic was to its maximum, we set up the rule of the 24.-48h which was necessary. We knew some resistances on the part of the farmers but which were rare. The black spot of our action was our difficulty of managing the destruction of the carcasses. The images of these destruction had a very negative impact in public opinion. Moreover, we are to write a new emergency plan in the event of new epizooty and we seek another destruction method.

 

 

Speech of Mr Jim Scudamore - chief Veterinary.

 

- The 1st case was detected in Essex while 20 cases already were in incubation. All the movements of animals would have being prohibited immediately throughout England. (What, you mean immediately as in 4 days later ?) One knows that the propagating centre of the disease was the Longtown market.

- The illness was present, at least, 3 weeks before the first detection. (Yes MAFF missed it !)The diagnosis is very difficult to do at the sheep. Paradoxically, the disease of 2001 knew fewer hearths than in 1997 but we carried out a great deal of slaughter. (Don`t we know it !)

- One of the conclusions that we drew from this crisis is that the farmers who are in contact daily with the livestocks have to be in a position to detect the first the symptoms of FMD. (Brilliant ! How bloody astute ! Trouble is MAFF missed the disease ! OH well blame the farmers again !)We have therefore to make an education effort in this field because an affected live animal is a genuine virus factory. (Stunning Veterinary science !)

- The slaughter figures. 4 million heads of cattle were cut down to which 2 million slaughtered animals must be added because their living conditions (food, hygiene, transport) could not be ensured. (Pardon ?)

- Vaccination is aid but is not a tool of eradication of disease. In Holland, one first vaccinated to cut down thereafter. (Who told you that garbage ?)

 

Reactions and questions of the members of Parliament.

 

After the intervention of the Minister for Agriculture, many questions put by the temporary Committee and transmitted to the Minister before its arrival did not find answers. The members of Parliament present took up again many of these questions by adding a criticism of the government Blair policy lasting this crisis.

To answer, Nick Brown first said that only fate could explain that the mad Cow crisis and the foot-and-mouth disease had as a starting point, Great Britain. He referred to the problem of the contamination, at the source of the crisis, which comes from food arrived out of British ground in an illicit way. The British government applies to the letter European legislation, but it is able to do nothing against fraud. (Fraud from our own government !)

No, there was no direct pressure of the food industry, but at the time of consultations, it was clear that consumers would refuse the products without explicit labelling despite the harmlessness of the illness in human.

The British government has of calling for the veterinary body from the army then to the veterinary surgeons in retirement to allow the treatment of this crisis. The animals slaughtered were by civilians.

Mr Scudamore gave some precise details on this illness. Its duration is of 12 days and its incubation goes from 2 to 14 days. The beginning of the disease has of taking place at the end of January and it touched pigs. To detect this illness, mass serology (blood samples on the animals in the slaughterhouse) is not very useful and very difficult to organise.

Following a question of Eurig WYN concerning the policy of slaughter of the herds close to the infected areas and the information communicated by the English authorities which stated that the virus could be carried by wind, Nick BROWN and Mr Jim SCUDAMORE first of all admitted that this type of virus which was the same in the 3 infected countries were not volatile and that the essential reason of the massive slaughter was purely economic. The objective was to save the non affected areas.

Caroline LUCAS referred to the problem of the massive slaughter which had been justified by the transmission by the wind of the virus by specifying that according to its sources, the number of slaughtered animal was 10 million heads.

 

In conclusion, Nick BROWN accepted the link which could exist between the intensive breeding of pigs and the crisis of the foot-and-mouth disease. He said that if certain were not in agreement with the policy of the English government's slaughter, justice had to decide. During the crisis, owing to recourse in front of the justice of several farmers to prevent the slaughter of their livestocks, the disease could be propagated. According to him, the British government assumed all its responsibilities.

 

 

Second more interesting but unfortunately too short part, Dr. Keith J. SUMPTION'S, lecturer in Intrenational Animal Health and Mrs Alayne Addy, lawyer.

Dr. Keith J. SUMPTION:

For him, the way in which the British government managed the crisis of the foot-and-mouth disease, still called "political illness", with only one explanation, the regulation of the OIE which decides the classification of the free or not free countries of Foot-and-mouth disease and especially which the period determines after which the country will find its statute.

Yes, vaccination and better control of the movements of the animals could have succeeded in this epizooty as that occurred in Uruguay. The British Government would have of the before any preventive slaughter require a virological proof. There are numerous reference laboratories in Europe for that. Today the most urgent decision to be taken is to reform the code of the OIE concerning the classification of the countries and the commercial consequences and to strengthen the vaccination strategy.

Mrs Alayne ADDY

This lawyer defended during the crisis numerous farmers (200) who refused the slaughter of their cattle. Its essential argument is that the law allows the slaughter but only if it is proved by tests that animals are contaminated. This question, it placed it to the British government on 25 March, the answer reached it only on 22 April, date on which of numerous slaughters had been practised in the province of the Devon.

The lawyer calls into question the British law which it interpreted with a great deal of freedom the European directive. The concept of slaughter of the herds belonging to contiguous uses with infected areas has no legal authenticity. The British government would not therefore have conformed to the Community law. On the legal ground, Mrs Addy strongly criticised the British justice which allowed the call of the slaughter decisions for the farmers but without this call being suspensive.

 

In conclusion of this hearing during which the Minister Nick Brown was put hard in difficulty, one can note that it is plainly that the British government chose the most radical method to eradicate epizooty. This method was not the most legal one, neither the least cruel for the animals, nor even most just for the farmers who have all lost. The European Commission did not position on a possible diversion of European legislation on slaughter. This question will again have to be raised. (dynamite !)

 

Laurent Develay - 2/04/02