Simon Leach and Judith Bell of Burges Salmon Solicitors and Stephen Smith QChave been successful in preventing the slaughter of Rosemary Upton's film star Grunty the Kune Kune pig, and a small flock of rare breed Portland sheep at Hill Farm, Stawley, near Wellington, Somerset.
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.
From The Times, 22 June, "TV pig saved from cull by judge's order":
"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." END
Stephen Smith QC and Simon Leach relied heavily on the articles in the Veterinary Record, 12 May 2001, especially "Relative risks of the uncontrollable (airborne) spread of FMD by different species" by A .I. Donaldson, S. Alexandersen, J.H. Sorensen, and T. Mikkelse.
Fred Landeg, Head of the Veterinary Exotic Diseases Division of MAFF/DEFRA argued that the Vet Record articles were a "red herring" in this case (a direct contact case) and should be ignored. The Judge said that he was wrong - they were relevant. He was very impressed by these articles. The Ministry then argued that a direct contact case was much more dangerous than a contiguous premises case, and that there had always been more flexibility in a contiguous premises case than in a direct contact case.
Although the judgement relates only to this case, surely there are some important lessons to be learned, and implications for future actions during this current outbreak.
1. The Veterinary Record articles, which are powerful ammunition against the Government's contiguous premises policy, have been in the public domain for well over a month. Why has MAFF and now DEFRA continued to slaughter healthy animals in spite of this scientific advice? In fact, this advice from Alex Donaldson and Paul Kitching, at the Institute of Animal Health, Pirbright, was available much earlier, publicly through their interviews on BBC Radio 4 and on Channel 4 News, but privately, much earlier in the outbreak. Why, even during this case, did the Ministry continue to refuse to accept the top vet's view of the articles' relevance?
2. DEFRA's statement of greater flexibility should cause the Ministry to review its approach to CP cases as well as DC cases. If it does not, it is at risk of further challenges.
Let us hope that this judgement will see the end of the unnecessary slaughter of healthy animals. If not, there are sure to be further challenges.