Brussels unveils virus proposals
Source: FWi 18 December 2002

By Philip Clarke

BRUSSELS has unveiled proposals to give emergency vaccination a central role in the event of an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease.

Food safety commissioner David Byrne launched European Commission proposals for controlling foot-and-mouth on Wednesday (18 December).

"General prophylactic vaccination is not advisable for sound scientific, technical and commercial reasons," he said.

"But emergency vaccination should be moved to the forefront in the event of a future outbreak."

At the moment, emergency vaccination can be used only if a member state obtains permission from the commission.

The UK and the Netherlands were granted permission to use vaccination during last year’s foot-and-mouth epidemic, but only the Netherlands used it.

The new legislation would enable Brussels to initiate vaccination, but it would still have to be approved by a majority of member states.

Using emergency vaccination had become more viable, said Mr Byrne.

This followed the development of validated tests to distinguish between treated animals and infected animals.

In line with international requirements, the proposals also show how countries can recover "free of FMD without vaccination" status within six months.

Such status is essential for meat exports.

Mr Byrne said there was no need to label meat separately just because it had come from vaccinated animals.

"Animals are treated with medication on a regular basis anyway," he said.

"There is no danger and it is essential that customers become accustomed to that."

But he made it clear that vaccination was not enough on its own.

"Proper contingency planning is also critically important."

Mr Byrne pointed to a ban on swill feeding which has already come into force, and a ban on personal meat imports to the European Union, due to start on 1 January.

New legislation on staging posts and sheep ID are also in the pipeline.
The Journal - Voice of the North

Dec 18 2002

By The Journal


Government still hasn't learned - It is no surprise that the European Parliament inquiry into our Government's handling of the foot-and-mouth crisis has been so critical of the way it was handled.

Firstly, the general contents of the dossier, released yesterday, have already been reported in The Journal.

Secondly, it was obvious to anyone who watched this crisis unfold that there was no effective contingency plan and key decisions and policies were being made "on the run".

It serves little point to, once again, list all the failures.

We all know what they were, Europe knows them and the rural community knows them.

The problem is, Mr Blair's government don't really want to know about their mistakes.

They believe it is time to move on. Put it in the past. Make some general admission like "mistakes were made" - but don't say sorry.

Launch a couple of - behind closed doors - inquiries, make a big play of taking their findings to heart, attempt to rubbish anyone else's opinions and announce that the time has come to draw a line under the matter and look to the future.

Standard spin mode from Downing Street.

Except that the foot-and-mouth crisis isn't some distant memory for thousands of families in the North.

It is something many are still living with the effects of and remains a very real problem.

Anyone who needs convincing that the Government is still getting it wrong over foot-and-mouth need only look at the two groups of people taking the opposite view last night.

The European Parliament and British farmers.

Not natural allies but both well able to recognise the real issue.
Farmers back FMD report

Dec 18 2002

By The Journal


North farmers last night found themselves in the unusual position of supporting Europe as they backed a report slamming the Government's handling of the foot-and-mouth crisis.

The agricultural community said it fully backs the year-long European Parliament inquiry on the UK foot-and-mouth outbreak in 2001, which accused the Government of traumatising farmers and breaking animal welfare laws.

The Government says yesterday's report contains "serious errors of fact" about the way the crisis was handled but farmers say that, instead of defending their actions, ministers should accept responsibility and learn from the mistakes made.

Otterburn farmer Malcolm Corbett, Northumberland NFU chairman at the time of the epidemic, said: "The European report is correct. FMD was allowed to get out of hand because of the inadequate way Government dealt with it initially. Government has to accept responsibility for both the scale of the outbreak and the devastation it caused. There were serious welfare problems, even if no prosecutions were brought.

"Rather than go on the defensive, they should listen to the criticism, which is justified, and learn from their mistakes."

Haydon Bridge farmer David Smith, lost his stock during the epidemic and said: "There was no contingency plan in place when FMD struck. They made the rules up as they went along and it resulted in more animals being slaughtered than should have been and a huge bill at the end of it.

"Mistakes were made so let us be open about it, learn from it, and move on."

According to the inquiry, bureaucratic delays and red tape may have actually doubled the number of cases, and a ban on the movement of all susceptible animals should have been introduced immediately.

As the report was overwhelmingly endorsed by MEPs in Strasbourg, the Government insisted all its action were in line with EU rules.

A spokesman for Defra said: "Every action complied with EU requirements and this report contains exaggerated claims.

"While there are some helpful clarifications and a recognition that the Government responded well in the face of such an outbreak, there are serious errors of fact."

The report, which has no legal status, said that in any future crisis, emergency vaccination must be a first choice option and not a last resort - something the Government has already conceded, in the wake of two inquiries in the UK.

Tomorrow the European Commission, which supported the mass cull at the time, is expected to unveil new guidelines which will also acknowledge that vaccination must move up the list of priorities.

The report acknowledged that the Government's emergency measures complied with EU criteria for tackling foot-and-mouth disease, but it had been wrongly assumed that the disease would remain localised, with no more than 10 outbreaks.

In the end, the outbreak contained 12 mini epidemics. It said there was also inadequate information and consultation with local authorities before mass burial or burning of animals - a failure which led to breaches of environmental health guidelines.

EU blames Government over foot and mouth crisis
By Robert Uhlig Farming Correspondent
(Filed: 18/12/2002)

The European Parliament yesterday condemned the Government for traumatising
farmers, damaging health, wrecking the environment and breaching animal
welfare rules during its handling of last year's foot and mouth epidemic.

Voting in Strasbourg to adopt the report of the only independent inquiry
into the crisis, MEPs laid the blame squarely at the feet of Tony Blair's

The report found the decision to operate a contiguous cull policy rather
than vaccination was taken to protect meat export markets, but resulted in a
far greater economic loss to affected communities through the collapse of
tourism and other industries.

As a result, vaccination must take precedence in dealing with any future
outbreak and compensation should go not just to farmers, but other affected
businesses, it said.

Caroline Lucas, vice-president of the inquiry committee, said: "It is quite
clear from the evidence we received and the communities we visited that much
of the blame for the devastation which followed the outbreak lies at the
door of the British Government." She said the contiguous cull "neither
worked, nor was it legal nor was it effective".

The report blamed officialdom for adding to farmers' problems with red tape
and bureaucratic delays during the disposing of slaughtered animals.

It warned that a mass cull on such a scale would "not be publicly acceptable

Its primary recommendation - emergency vaccination should replace contiguous
culling as the first response - makes it likely that a vaccination policy
will be imposed throughout Europe when the European Commission publishes its
new foot and mouth directive today.

Gordon Adam, Labour agriculture spokesman in the European Parliament, said
the report contained "unsubstantiated" opinions.
EU report criticises disease `mishandling'

Dec 18 2002

Martin Shipton In Strasbourg, The Western Mail


ATTEMPTS by the UK Government to water down a damning European Parliament report into last year's foot-and-mouth outbreak were defeated yesterday.

Instead Euro-MPs voted in Strasbourg to endorse the report's conclusion that the epidemic was mishandled by an ill-prepared and over-centralised Government response.

It comes as the European Commission prepares to publish a proposed new directive following the report's recommendation that any future outbreak of foot-and-mouth (FMD) should be combated by emergency vaccination.

The UK Government has lobbied heavily behind the scenes to remove criticism of animal welfare violations and intimidation of farmers the report suggested occurred. The Government had also wanted to amend the report so that it stated there had been no harmful health or environmental effects from pyres and burial sites.

But yesterday Euro-MPs voted to endorse a report which argues that vaccination of affected stock is a better way to deal with an outbreak of foot-and-mouth than burning animals or burying them.

Plaid Cymru Euro-MP Eurig Wyn, Wales's sole member of the European Parliament Committee set up to investigate last year's outbreak, said yesterday, "Today's vote is a damning indictment of the Govern-ment's poor handling of this crisis.

"I welcome the fact that this parliament rejected final attempts by the UK Government to water down the report and re-write history. It is astounding that a number of Labour members attempted to amend the report dismissing the documented violations of animal welfare legislation, intimidation of farmers and the enormous psychological consequences of the mass slaughtering.

"Of course mistakes are made, but following staggering attempts by the UK Government to sway the views of Euro-MPs, it is obvious that they have not learned the lessons of last year."

Welsh Conservative Euro-MP Jonathan Evans said during the debate, "I am sorry that the British Government was so anxious about its own position that we struggled for six months to get the committee up and running. This is a first rate report, one that has endeavoured to address the real cause of these issues of concern.

"The crisis had an impact on a very human scale. Sometimes we don't recognise the sense of isolation felt by farmers suffering a devastating impact of what confronted them."

Labour Euro-MP Eluned Morgan said, "The report's adequately reflects the horror of the world's worst foot-and-mouth outbreak and the devastation it caused in many rural communities. There are many valid suggestions for dealing with any future outbreak, and there are clear demands for more research into vaccine developments.

"On the day the first case was confirmed, 57 farms in 16 counties were already infected. This is far beyond the scale of any reasonable contingency plan. There can never be a solution to complications arising from a farmer failing to report the presence of a suspected disease. This was the defining event of the outbreak.

"The report slightly obscures an important detail, slaughter of the infected herd is the first requirement to disease elimination. I am concerned that we should not give the impression to the farming community or the general public that slaughter can be completely replaced by vaccination.''

The vexed issue of whether the mass cull of livestock was legal remains unclear. Euro-MPs rejected an amendment to declare the slaughter unlawful, but the report left the question of legality open.,,172-517520,00.html

MEPs blame ministers over foot-and-mouth

MINISTERS were criticised strongly by the European Parliament yesterday for their handling of last year’s foot-and-mouth outbreak, which led to the slaughter of six million animals and mass burials and pyres across Britain.

After a year-long investigation, Euro MPs overwhelmingly endorsed a hard-hitting report that accused the Government of being ill-prepared and over-bureaucratic in dealing with the outbreak. It recommended that compensation be paid to tourism and sport, which had been badly hit, in addition to the €420million (#270 million) that the EU has already handed to farmers in the UK, Ireland, the Netherlands and France.

“It is unacceptable that only farmers, in whose interests the non-vaccination policy is being pursued, should receive compensation for livestock lost in a foot-and-mouth outbreak, while other farmers and those in other sectors of the economy — particularly tourism and sport — are compelled to foot the bill for their own losses,” the report noted.

The Government’s opponents seized on the criticism, which was endorsed by 481 MEPs, with only 32 members, mainly Labour Euro MPs, voting against. Neil Parish, the Conservatives’ European agriculture spokesman, said the report’s clear message was that the Government’s handling of the outbreak had been “a shambles”. “Our rural economy was devastated by the outbreak and this report says so. It shames the Government and though compensation will be little to those lives destroyed by the handling of the crisis, it will at least go some way to recognising their plight,” he added.

The Government, however, complained that the report contained some serious errors of fact and several “seriously exaggerated” claims.

It vehemently denied allegations that the burial and burning of animal carcasses had led to breaches of human and environmental health guidelines from emissions and groundwater pollution.

It did welcome, however, the report’s conclusions on the action to be taken in any future outbreaks, in particular the use of emergency vaccination and contingency planning.

A British official confirmed that the parliamentary recommendations, which David Byrne, the Public Health Commissioner will include in new draft legislation to be tabled today, complemented the findings of Britain’s own inquiries.