Dairy Farmer

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December

.....the 'practice run' Government have had "controlling" our FMD virus, will have given the UK population confidence in their ability to handle anything a terrorist might throw at us - won't it?

After what could be described not as "control" but carnage by computer, the officially quoted figure on November 4th is 2030 FMD infected farms. But 9,585 have been slaughtered out and in answer to a parliamentary question, Elliot Morley said that 13,058 farmers had received compensation.

On October 30th, while Mr. Blair was busy trying to save the world, an extension to the Animal Health Act was sneaked in to cover that carnage - and much more besides.

In it, powers of entry are extended and slaughter undertaken "for disease control", rather than infection or contact. This is an awesome power, which government seeks to rush through while the UK is (officially) flagging up no new cases, although (unofficially), lorry drivers say they are still clearing carcasses from farms.

Is this proposal compatible with the European FMD legislation or the Human Rights Act? The mass slaughter provision will apply to other diseases and their vaccinates "as the Minister decides" and compensation reduced to 75% of market value, with payment of the other 25% depending on the level of farm biosecurity and "co-operation". That's also at the Minister's discretion and is non negotiable. The proposal also includes provision to enter and slaughter in the owner's absence - provided they leave his premises 'bio-secure and in the condition they found them'. That's OK then. The level of arrogance, combined with a staggering ignorance of our industry seems to increase with seniority in this administration. And this proposal also confirms that the contiguous cull was not covered by the present Act.

Pirbright was experimenting using the 'O' strain of FMD last year. Three trials were at Level 2, and considered "mainly safe", but also listed was 'Genetic Manipulation of FMD' at Levels 3 & 4. (Ref. 53trans/1). I understand level 4 work is bio-weapons. How do you 'genetically manipulate ' FMD and what do you use it for? Health & Safety papers on the work describe the DNA insert as of 'human origin', and expressed concern should a leak of experimental material occur, as it could be 'environmentally persistent'. They explained that wasn't their problem - it was MAFF's.


From "Dairy Farmer"

October

Newspapers and politicians are calling for a Public Inquiry into government's (mis)handling of FMD.

It's a popular platform, but a copy of a Ministry cleansing, disinfecting and compensation contract, confirms that the evidence of those most directly involved could be excluded. When this government came to power in 1997, they promised a Freedom of Information Act, but on FMD they've delivered a triple whammy. The contracts include sections of the Official Secrets Act, and information is subject to Data Protection and is Crown Copyright.

Those of us who've still got stock have too many, and as winter approaches the OTMS backlog is estimated at 200,000 - double that of 1996. And this can only rise as the bottleneck is rendering capacity, which is still jammed up with seropositive and FMD clinical sheep. The proposal for a ewe buy-up scheme, refused by the EU two years ago, is now happening. We may have a born-again ministry (Defra), but 90% of the UK's agricultural policy is decided by the EU. On 30th March, directive 2001/257/EC approved limited protective vaccination for cattle in Cumbria and Devon, with Cornwall, Somerset and Dorset added April 24th. Vaccinates had to be identified on passports and eartags, and their movement, slaughter and processing of products was limited to within their vaccination zone for 30 days, during which time meat had to be labelled, deboned and heat treated and milk sterilised, UHT processed or its pH brought to below 6. Those conditions applied to milk 'used for animal feed' as well. Life could be difficult for a newly calved cow - microwaved before she suckled her calf?.

Unions demanded compensation to underwrite losses for a two-tier market and when none was offered, vaccination was turned down. But together with money to implement the dedicated processing necessary, compensation was already available under Directive 90/424/EC, which specifically underwrites 60% of all losses associated with FMD vaccination. Unfortunately nobody told the farmers.

But it has to be match funded, and so becomes part of the UK's politically sancrosanct budget rebate. It would have required 83% funding from H M Government, but in retrospect this might have been cheaper than slaughtering out some 10,000 farms.