The Rt.Hon. Margaret Beckett MP
Secretary of State for the Environment Food and Rural Affairs
Dept of the Environment Food and Rural Affairs
17 Smith Square
London SW1P 3JR
Dear Mrs Beckett
Re: The Rural Communities Case for Vaccination
First may we congratulate you on your new appointment as Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
As vets, scientists, farmers and other interested parties we write to urge you to bring in the use of vaccination against FMD. Contrary to myths put about, modern vaccines are fast acting, cheap, highly effective, easy to apply, and safe for both use on the animals, and the by-products for the consumer.
As with polio and other virus diseases, FMD vaccines are an effective way of controlling and eradicating the disease. Other countries acknowledge this fact, as do up-to-date scientists in the field.
Effective tests are available to distinguish between vaccinated animals as against naturally infected animals. Furthermore there is no scientific justification for slaughtering animals because they have been vaccinated. Also it is generally agreed that the risk of vaccinated animals active as carriers and transmitting infection to other animals is remote.
If vaccination were instigated, unnecessary culling could be stopped. Invaluable rare bloodlines and hefted flocks could be saved. The tourist industry could get quickly back on its feet. Any blood sampling considered necessary, could be done justly, and without the time pressure that at present, is leading to some unspeakable cruelty. It is frequently overlooked that the existing draconian FMD policy affects not only the farming community, but also zoos, wildlife parks, habitat conservation groups, pet animals, pony trekking and all rural businesses.
The greatest risk of carrying the disease in this epidemic has been by contact, direct and indirect (on fomites) as opposed to wind born transmission recorded in other epidemics. MAFF (DEFRA) may well be responsible for disease transmission in carrying out the excessive culling policy, due to number of personnel, vehicles and routes used moving from farm to farm and to disposal sites.
Lately, the authorities have accentuated the use of the word ' bio-security', as the key to success in controlling the spread of the disease. As far back as the 1968 Northumberland Inquiry, it was acknowledged to be virtually impossible to carry out effective bio-security in a farming environment.
At the height of the Devon and Cumbria outbreak, the government's Foot and Mouth Science Group, agreed unanimously to vaccinate cattle in those areas. However, their advice was not acted upon.
We ask you urgently to ensure that the science is given a chance to succeed, where culling has failed to defeat this virus.
also on behalf of the enclosed list of signatories