I have posted below a message received from Peter Poll, a Veterinary Surgeon in Holland. Jane Barribal -

......there is something morally and ethically absolutely wrong

In spring 2001 when Foot & Mouth Disease manifested itself in the UK, the Royal Dutch Veterinary Association (equivalent of the BVA) invited all veterinary surgeons to form a volunteers pool, in case this disease would come to the continent, and so I found myself in the crisis centre on March 21, when a very severe suspicion on a calf and goatfarm existed.

Together with colleagues and laystaff I worked in "screening" (looking for clinical signs, taking blood samples and checking paperwork). After approx. 14 days I was transferred to a slaughterhouse, where the killing and destruction of the animals (260,000 in all) from the designated area took place. My task was "supervision of humane slaughter and of desinfection of vehicles". I did this for another two weeks; at the end of that period I found myself emotionally exhausted to such a degree, that I withdrew from the whole thing.

My reason for cooperation up to that time was that we had a national emergency on our hands, that we had to try and get the outbreak under control with the means available at the moment, and that it was necessary to have "all hands on deck".

Where do we go from here?

Now that the situation in the Netherlands is under control (at least, that is what we hope and pray for!) it is time for reflexion.

I have come to the conclusion, with regard also to the situation in the UK, that this policy is contrary to everything that veterinary medicine stands for and is thus unacceptable. If this was Tsjernobyl(radioactivity, danger to human health, no means of preventing or combatting contamination) it would be a totally different matter, and draconic measures would be justified. Up till 1991 we have used and tested a system of vaccination, and it is my absolute conviction that it should be re-introduced. Our RDVA has a motto: 'Animalium hominumque saluti', in English 'To the well-being of animals and people' (I?m not a linguist, this is the best I can do!). There are several reasons not to accept any longer what is going on: economically, the estimates of the cost of an outbreak in the Netherlands that were made in 1991 were totally wrong. It was suggested that an outbreak and the following stamping-out would cost 450 million guilder (approx 125 million pound), the actual cost is now estimated at 2.5 billion guilder (approx 700 million pound). And how shall we calculate animal and human suffering, social unrest, "the threat to rural life" as was recently said in the UK?! But futhermore there is something morally and ethically absolutely wrong. To me, there is an essential difference between food production and destruction. How shall we explain the images shown again and again on TV, to our children and grandchildren? Therefore I have, together with a group of colleagues, proposed a motion for our Annual General Meeting on october 6th. The content is: - that many veterinary surgeons have loyally cooperated during the crisis
- that, with continuing non-vaccination policy, a new outbreak in the near future can be predicted with a probability of nearly 100%
- that we find the consequences unacceptable for animals, farmers, veterinary surgeons and many others concerned, especially in the light of a alternative with proven efficacy,
- that, if the non-vaccination policy is continued, we will no longer cooperate in an eradication program as carried out in spring 2001
- and that we instruct the Board of the RDVA to negotiate with the Government and the industry about the conditions, under which we will resume those tasks.
There is a more than reasonable chance that the meeting will accept and support the motion, especially now that the Board has pledged its support.

We have, in the past, warned about what would happen, pleaded to change the policy, written scientific studies about the consequences, pleaded in Brussels (almost on our knees!) to rethink, all to no avail. Now we have only one tool left: to strike. It is a very heavy weapon, one most think umpty times before one uses it, it is very strange to our profession, but now we find ourselves in a situation where there is no other method left.

It is time for veterinary surgeons to look in the mirror, ask themselves where they stand and then, also and especialy in the UK which is so dramatically suffering under this crisis, "to stand up and be counted".

It is still necessary to get all hands on deck, for if we want to have any impact in discussions in Brussels and with the OIE, Holland alone will probably not be able to change the policy.

We are dealing with the equivalent of a huge oil-tanker, and to stop it in its tracks and make a U-turn, a lot of force is necessary. Don?t underestimate all the inflated egos, that will need a lot of convincing before they admit that they were wrong!

Peter Poll PhD. DVM.