Back to website

( These comments were posted on warmwell in April 2002 and date from that time)

Ben Gill's statements so far about FMD

This is a list of some of the statements made by Ben Gill since the beginning of the FMD epidemic. Each statement is expanded to give the facts, to help decide whether the NFU's original statement has any basis in truth. Statements marked with a * were made during Ben Gill's latest interview with the Farmers Guardian, in preparation for giving evidence to the EU Monday 8th April. It is expected that Ben Gill will be repeating some of these statements to the committee:


* Vaccination would have created a two-tier market in the UK, as retailers would have labelled vaccinated products. This would force vaccinated meat to be sold at a lower price.

Different from earlier claims, as Ben Gill says here 'retailers would have labelled', rather than as he said originally ' retailers would have to label'. He stated before that retailers would have been required to label vaccinated meat by the National Consumer Council, but when we checked, the National Consumer Council issued a statement to us stating that no such labelling was required. The evidence of this is available on the supermarket shelves now; we have sold FMD vaccinated meat by the ton to the British Consumer without labelling being required (70,000 tons of FMD vaccinated beef imported from Argentina in just one year, 2001).


* The unavailability of a proper effective vaccination policy meant there was no alternative

There are proper effective vaccination policy directives put in place by the EU, but there is a definite need to develop a coherent policy for vaccination that can be adopted by member states. Ben Gill is mainly concerned about the marketability of vaccinated produce  there does need to be a clearer policy on this within the member states.


* The disease was eradicated by the cull and we were then in a position to re-establish our indus-try far earlier than anyone thought possible, he said. "Nobody in their wildest dreams, even in August, thought we would have been allowed back into the sheep export market in 2001. That had immediate effect on the sheep market price, but if we had vaccinated we would have been looking at least another 12 months."

Argentina suffered an outbreak of FMD in March 2001, immediately started a vaccination program which brought about no further cases by the end of October 2001. They applied for and gained export status back again in February 2002. Therefore, Argentina were not penalised by having to wait any further by vaccinating. They in fact returned quicker to export by vaccinating.


* The cull was not sufficiently tar-geted at the farms most at risk, but there was a lot of myth around about animals being culled unnecessarily. "People have to realise that there was no effective test available to diag-nose an animal that was infected but not infective".

Bearing in mind that Alayne Addy last week discussed how farmers in Devon used a test from Genesis Diagnostics to diagnose whether their animals were infected, the proof here is that just in Devon, there are still 200 farms that were not culled out because of legal resistance to the cull, that still have healthy animals. These mythological animals would have been killed unnecessarily if DEFRA and Ben Gill had had their way.


Pregnant sows would abort if vaccinated

Ben Gill stated this last year, after reading this on a vaccine bottle, although he cannot remember which vaccine bottle. We checked this with, among others, Dr Paul Sutmoller a world expert who has practised FMD vaccination in dealing with outbreaks for 40 years, who in writing to us states that he is not aware of any case of pigs aborting after vaccination for Foot and Mouth.


No one would buy vaccinated meat

We already have been buying and eating tons of FMD vaccinated beef and sheep meat from other countries for many years (analysis given on Page 3 of this document of import figures May 2000-April 2001 on vaccinated meat).

Consumers would feel the meat was contaminated

This was dealt with by the Food Standards Agency who back in April 2001 issued a press release stating that beef and sheep meat would be safe to eat if vaccinated for FMD. It is the job of the FSA and the NFU, among other groups, to educate the public wisely, rather than circulate inaccurate and damaging information such as the above statement.


Under EU law the Dutch were forced to kill all vaccinated animals

They were not obliged to slaughter all their vaccinated animals. On the 23 March 2001 they were granted suppressive vaccination (where slaughter would follow) in a 2 km area round confirmed outbreaks. In addition on 3 April they obtained permission for protective vaccination, (vaccinated animals could live but would be prohibited from movement for at least one year). The farmers, many of them dairy, were led to believe their animals would be allowed to live and thus agreed to the protective vaccination area being much wider than was truly necessary for control of the disease. After vaccination was completed, their Government changed its mind and insisted on slaughtering the animals in a bid to qualify for normal trading after three months. Many farmers attempted to fight the slaughter in the courts and there was further public outcry. That was the main reason why their vaccination strategy created such a high number of animal deaths. Not that vaccinating proportionately caused more slaughter, a myth freely peddled in this country now, whenever vaccination in the Netherlands is mentioned. In fact Dr Frits Pluimers CVO of the Netherlands made an impassioned speech at the conference, stating that he could not in the future ignore the will of the Dutch people and that vaccination would certainly be used should they be enough to have another outbreak. However, they would never again follow a policy that slaughtered vaccinated animals, proved by tests to be uninfected. They would press for such tests, which he insisted do already exist, to be internationally validated, and trading rules brought up to date with the science.


Vaccination doesn't work with sheep!!!

Try telling that to Dr Paul Sutmoller, Dr Simon Barteling, Dr Keith Sumption, Professor Fred Brown, Dr Alex Donaldson and others


The Contiguous cull was not illegal

Alayne Addy, Devon Solicitor:

We consulted with a barrister who advised us that the policy of contiguous culling was unlawful in both UK and EU law, she said. The EU directive allows for compulsory culling of all stock on a farm which tests positive for foot and mouth, but not the slaughter of animals on adjoining holdings. Meanwhile, the two pieces of domestic law which Maff had used to defend the culls were incompatible with the EU law, which took precedence.

Stephen Smith QC:

There is no power in the 1981 Act to create a 'firebreak'. The Ministry has power to slaughter only when it (reasonably) believes that the animal in question has been exposed to the fmd infection. The Ministry cannot slaughter just because it considers it would be in the best interests of animals further away if an animal-free corridor were created around an IP. Although not directly relevant to the Upton case, this issue was raised in our skeleton argument but was not commented on by the Ministry. If there had been power to create a firebreak, one would have expected that the Ministry would have been keen to draw our attention to it.



'The contiguous cull policy was never successfully challenged in the courts'

Oh yes it was! In the majority of cases Maff/Defra backed off before the case went to court. A lot of farmers could not afford the litigation involved, and so were forced into giving up their stock. But Grunty the Pig (involving sheep, not only the pig) was a case where scientific information and EU legislation was taken into account, and the court found in favour of Grunty the Pig. Mr. Justice Harrison ruled that the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is not entitled to a court injunction allowing the slaughter to go ahead. "Mr Justice Harrison said that Grunty and 11 prized sheep at the same farm had shown no sign of disease and it was sufficient for them to be monitored. He refused leave to appeal against his decision and awarded the owner, Rosemary Upton, her legal costs, leaving the Government with an estimated bill of £40,000. The judge said that he had been most influenced by "impressive" scientific evidence that even if the animals turned out to be infected, "bearing in mind the number of animals and the distance they are away from neighbouring animals, there would not be a risk". Grunty was nine days into the incubation period with no sign of infection, and there were only five days to go before the maximum period expired. "It seems to me there is much to be said for the alternative of monitoring and blood testing something which Mrs Upton had offered in the first place," he said. "My decision should not be taken to have any wider importance than simply being a decision which relates to the particular circumstances of this case." Mrs Upton had agreed to the slaughter of sheep and cattle on her other smallholdings. Grunty is one of less than 2,000 Maori Kune Kune pigs left in the world."


Import of vaccinated meat - figures: