Professor David King at the University of East Anglia. .....no questions allowed
First bit about Good scientific collaboration linked to business , pays dividends... We will be announcing the appointment of a new scientific advisor to DEFRA in the next few days.
The rest of the talk was about the history of his involvement during the F&M outbreak.
Prof. King said he could not discuss the start of the outbreak because of pending legal action. (brief mention of pigs and swill)
He pointed out that he had no knowledge of F&M at all, but felt that this was an advantage .
He listened to the opinions of the experts assembled , who, he pointed out, had never been in agreement at any of the meetings ( held twice a day and once a day on Sat & Sunday; these were chaired by Blair for a couple of weeks, also the science group met daily throughout) and then based his decisions on what he heard.
Brief explanation of the two Models from Imperial College & Cambridge .
He stated that he had never said that the outbreak would be over by June 7th, but that it was possible that Mr Blair had picked that date for the election himself after looking at the graph the model had produced.(slight ripple of laughter from audience)
(warmwell note: Not the very day - but all the same, Professor King's memory is playing him false if he does not remember his confident words on Farming Today, Friday April 20th when he said, " We're not going to be in the same situation in July - let me be uncharacteristically dogmatic about that. I think that when we say that the epidemic is coming under control, we have a high degree of confidence in that. Surveillance and culling must continue at the present level but if we do that then I'm really quite confident that come the summer this epidemic will be stuttering along but at a very slow rate." )
He said that they had agreed to follow a policy of transparency when talking to the public, which had had some unfortunate repercussions, as when he announced that the outbreak was tailing off farmers had relaxed their bio security with the result that things got out of control again. (warmwell note: One wonders which farmers he has in mind? Those in Northumberland perhaps, who had never for one moment stopped being scared to death of the recurrence of the disease - which did happen in spite of all their best efforts? Or the farmers of Cumbria perhaps? Or Devon?)
Pigs had not been as badly affected as had been feared, because in view of past problems with swine fever etc they had much better bio security in place. (And were not going to be at risk anyway. He had only to read Dr Donaldson on airborne spread)
Farmers resisting the cull had slowed down the cull times resulting in prolonging the outbreak quote- 30% of farms who took out injunctions subsequently went down with the disease therefore spreading the disease more. (warmwell note: this is particularly waspish. He could perhaps ask Allayne Addy just how many of the 150 odd farms she saved have gone down subsequently. Or the Thomas-Everards perhaps, whose successful effort to stop the unlawful killing of their animals has meant that their pedigree herd is still their pride and joy.)
Mention of press statements about the large numbers of healthy animals killed - he said that 80% of these would have got the disease anyway. He said only 10% of the nations animals had been killed , compared with the 40% killed annually for the meat trade . ( Comment from Richard: My quick reaction .... This is of course a red herring. It is not relevent, as the majority of animals killed each year are not breeding animals but animals for the food chain. And perhaps he forgot these animals were very likely subjected to great stress, and in many cases killed in appalling ways, without the normal statutory requirements as apply in a slaughter house situation )
Vaccination . very brief mention at the end. dismissed because there was possible difficulty in telling the difference between animals who had had the disease against those who had been vaccinated; this would affect our status with the EU. (warmwell note: This would appear to be the only remaining argument against vaccination. The existence of effective differential tests is, in fact, not in doubt. Only their validation is. Meanwhile, no one seems to mention the EU's reluctance to want to deal with Scotland, free of the disease since May. The policy of non-vaccination is not speeding resumption of exports quite as fast as Ross Finney hoped.)
He said he had met that morning with the NFU who were asking for the movement restrictions to be relaxed. He said there was no way he would be relaxing them as this would result in new outbreaks. (no mention of animal or farmers' welfare of course) (warmwell note: Prof King's contining ignorance of the disease and the progress of it would leave us speechless if we were not already well aquainted with it.) 710.000 sheep tested for antibodies (not sure of this figure I can't read my own writing) 367 found sero positive in 3 or 4 flocks. He said this was good news and that it looks like we are well on the way to getting our status back, particularly as T.B. and he had started the testing months ago and had been having talks with the EU, we stood to get FMD free status much sooner than the year they had originally thought it would take. (warmwell note: such optimism is to be applauded. Ross Finney has been disabused of his however.)
It was announced at the end that in keeping with the tradition of the lectures at the UEA there would be no questions allowed. (warmwell note: This is also in keeping with the tradition of Stalinist Russia) Prof. King stayed in the Lecture Hall with a large group of friends (no doubt all hoping for the new job on offer), and we were asked to leave, as they were going to show a film.
My feeling on the talk was that it was a very lightweight lecture with very little, if any, new information; a poor attempt at justifying the actions taken over the last year, and a recruitment drive for more PHD's in government and Business.
Not one mention of sympathy for the people whose lives have been wrecked , or for the animals welfare.