Gareth Davies - the gist of the interview. With many thanks to Jon Dobson, research director of the FMD Forum
From BBC Radio 4 Farming Today Friday August 30th
"There have been serious flaws in the way that the Government took advice during the Foot and Mouth epidemic.That's according to Gareth Davies, a leading veterinary epedemiologist, who was a member of the controversial foot and mouth group of specialists, the group chaired by Professor David King, the Government's Chief Scientific Advisor.
In an article for the magazine 'Science and Public Affairs' published by the British Association for the Advancement of Science, Gareth Davies says too much was demanded from the group. He told our reporter John Harvey Moore:
Gareth Davies: Unfortunately, because of the speed in which events were happening, meetings of the cabinet committee were occuring practically every day, and a lot of the other things were being bypassed. The committee was making judgements for and against vaccination without considering the quite considerable resources that were required for culling, and the fact that the veterinary services were over-stretched.
John Harvey Moore: You wrote in your article, that when you raised the question of vaccination you were told that it was not worth wasting the time discussing that issue?
Gareth Davies: Yes, that's right. I raised the question of vaccination and at one point I was told that we could spend a lot of time on it, but really it was a non-issue because it was well known that the farming unions would not accept vaccination.
My response to that was that you immediately constrained the committee, and that you were not able to look clearly at various scientific issues because you were putting in non-scientific judgements to limit the discussion.
There was an intervention the next day from the Cabinet Office who had seen the minutes of the meeting, and wanted the committee to re-consider and look at vaccination more seriously.
There was then a slow piecemeal process by which vaccination was looked at, but I think that it was too late in the day, to be quite honest. I think that if vacccination was to be used in that epidemic it should have been used in the first fortnight. What was most unfortunate was that this was a standalone committee meeting in an office in St. James and it had enormous power but no responsibility on the outcome of what was suggested, whereas half a mile away in Page Streeet, the Chief Veterinary Officer and his staff had very little power because decisions were being taken by the Scientific Committee, but Page Street had all the responsibility for the epidemic.
John Harvey Moore: So in effect, the committee was being asked to make decisions about how to deal with the disease which were beyond their competence?
Gareth Davies: Yes, you are quite right, the committee was being asked to make decisions that were beyond their competence."