'For evil to triumph all that is required is for good men to do nothing'
Mrs. E. Jane. M. Barribal & Associates.
2 - Howpark Farm Cottages - Grantshouse - Duns - Berwickshire - TD11 3RP
The President's Reply - 24th June 2001
You will recall I wrote to the President of the R.C.V.S. last Monday 20th June. I now publish his reply to me as follows:
Dear Mrs. Barribal,
I am in receipt of your letter of 20th June 2001. I was already aware of the incidents you mention in your letter and I await the results of the R.S.P.C.A. investigations and prosecutions, if these occur.
You are correct, I have issued guidance on the use of form A and I enclose a copy. In contrary to your statement I do know that large numbers of our members have seen and accepted the advice we have issued. I guess we cannot expect to reach everyone immediately. I can also state that DEFRA have changed their procedures following our advice concerning form A.
If you have specific observations about breaches in biosecurity by any personnel working for DEFRA I do know that the CVO will investigate thoroughly. Times, dates, names of individuals, if possible, are required.
If you have any specific examples where veterinary surgeons have acted in an unprofessional way, such as intimidation and deception, I can assure you these will be fully investigated. However, we do need specific instances, with times, dates and addresses as well as some supporting evidence. General statements such as those in your letter are not helpful to your case because we do know that the majority of veterinary surgeons working with DEFRA to control this outbreak of disease, are working very hard under difficult conditions which, to date, has gone unrecognized. Complaints forms can be downloaded from our Website.
Well there you have it. Let me take each point that the President covers.
First of all, he is aware of the incident in Skipton last week and as we know the matter is now in the hands of the R.S.P.C.A. and we shall have to await the outcome. I would, however, like to make one observation. It would seem that young and recently qualified Vets, some of whom come from abroad and are also not fluent in English, are being sent out to supervise culls on farms. I would question the judgement of their employers. We cannot be surprised if errors occur when the ability to command respect and take control in given circumstances comes with experience. It is irresponsible to send a boy to do a man's job. In many of these situations it seems too much is expected of these young vets.
We now come to the President's issued guidance on the use of form A. I am pleased to note that the President believes, many Vets have seen and taken the advice he offers. This advice, in short, is that vets must be satisfied that there are reasonable grounds to suppose that the disease exists or has existed in the last 56 days, before they declare a premises 'infected' so ordering the slaughter of the livestock.
I have always believed that the killing of these apparently healthy animals is wrong and if infection is suspected the appropriate tests should be undertaken. In view of the fact that many blood test results from clinically diagnosed IP's, contiguous culls and slaughter on suspicion cases have been returned 'negative' and adding the information contained in the Veterinary Record article by the Dumfries vets, (Messers E.Ayres, E.Cameron, R.Kemp, H.Leitch, A.Mollison,
I.Muir, H.Reid, D,Smith & J.Sprout. M's.R.C.V.S.) Neither we, nor the vets, can have faith in their clinical diagnosis. Therefore, neither can we leave such a drastic decision to an individual vet's 'supposition' however 'reasonable' that may be.
With the ability to detect virus/antibodies
in the Laboratory, this is the
only reliable way diagnosis can be obtained in this case. The art of 'guessing', 'supposition' and maybe', belong to the medics of the 19th century. We should not be expecting veterinary surgeons trained in the 20th Century to indulge in what can only be described as' bad practise' at the behest of our Government. They have done themselves a great disservice by becoming party to it and they must stop.
I will be interested to see precisely what changes DEFRA have made in their procedures following the President's advice regarding form 'A'.
We now come to the matter of bio-security. I agree wholeheartedly that breaches of these regulations should be reported to the CVO without delay and am pleased to have reassurance from Roger Eddy that the CVO will thoroughly investigated any instances reported with the required attention to detail.
However, since the blood-testing program began, I have received many reports of vets moving from farm to farm, visiting several in a day, to collect the samples. I have also noted that in the recent Court case, DEFRA claimed that 'dangerous contact' was far more likely to be a cause of infection than 'contiguous'. I cannot think of a closer encounter with a sheep, than obtaining a blood sample from its jugular vein. I therefore strongly advise all farmers who are requested to provide a portion of their flock for testing, to ensure that the Vet is willing to sign an entry permit stating they have not been on another farm for the past 72 hours. This should be no problem, unless of course, DEFRA do not have enough 'clean vets' due to the fact that a single Vet would only be able to visit two farms a week. It is foolish of DEFRA to deliberately break their own recommendations in this way as immediately they lose all credibility. If, however they are strictly observed it would seem likely that completion of the testing program will be considerably delayed as will the lifting of restrictions in many areas, which is a matter of urgency.
Many rumours still abound concerning a 'planned' mass cull of livestock in Wales, Cumbria and Devon. The widely held belief that FMD in sheep, was spread throughout the U.K. to almost endemic proportions, has foundered with so many 'negative' test results. While this belief was held and the policy for eradication in place, it would seem sensible for the Government to have made preparations for the expected mass slaughter on test results. The public observed them and prior to the Election rumour was rife and continues to smoulder today. The time for a complete rethink of policy has come.
Over the past weeks it has become patently obvious that the Virus has little affect on sheep, many having recovered and developed antibodies. We also know that although more research is needed in this field, it would seem that the persistently infected animals, referred to as 'carriers' present little or no infective risk. Therefore there seems nothing to be gained by killing them.
We are however, led to believe that the virus has a much more devastating affect in cattle, so let's examine this more closely. From information I've received from farmers and Vets, affected cattle are extremely unwell. They are feverish, have little desire to eat or drink and are unwilling to stand. Knowing the symptoms, this is not surprising. Their bodies compensate for lack of fluid as best they can and the milk supply in lactating mammals will dry up as a result.
This is well known and normal in all mammals. What we do not know, is for how long this serious condition with this particular virus will last, as diagnosed animals have been slaughtered very quickly. However, at least one case has been reported of cattle having recovered from infection. Sadly, I understand these animals were also slaughtered as part of a contiguous cull. Thus, yet another opportunity for further study and research has been lost.
I find it incredible that early 20th century reports and several from the 1960's indicate that affected animals were nursed back to health successfully. Remembering that this was in spite of the fact that the modern drugs available to fight secondary infections were not available then, I have to ask why we have adopted the policies we have. Vets are not trained to kill but to cure and they should be encouraged to do so.
None of us take kindly to change. We become comfortable with the status quo and things that are familiar. Measures such as quarantine to prevent the rabies virus entering the U.K. were considered wise at their inception and maintained for many years. Little notice being taken of the successful use of vaccination in other countries as time went on. We developed a narrow minded, bigoted vision and firm belief that at all costs, this was the only way to keep rabies out. Ghastly and garish posters were displayed at Ports around the country warning of the dire consequences of a rabid import. We lived in fear of what such a disaster would mean, believing the control measures to be the eradication of all pets and wildlife in the infected area and painful injections being daily administered into stomach of human victims, though unlikely to make a recovery. Still British subjects traipsed off on holiday in increasing numbers to far away countries where rabies was known to exist. They petted and fed the stray dogs they met and set up charities to support them. I do not belittle the seriousness of a rabies infection in either the human or animal population but I do consider we were extremely foolish to have maintained quarantine for so long when there was a viable alternative available. We appear to have been very foolish for far to long in this respect.
I fear we are making the same mistake with FMD. Not only are we using draconian measures to hopefully eradicate the virus but we are also instilling fear in the population, failing to use the opportunities for further research and killing animals, which have recovered without our assistance. Why? Simply because some years ago we decided FMD free status was the way to go and made it part of our legislation. Times have changed and we must change with them. We can and must do better. As things are, we are starting to look very foolish.
Jane Barribal - Farmtalking.com