From the QC's letter
the proposed new power is a power to slaughter animals - note not just FMD susceptible animals - which are not infected, which have not been in contact with the infection in any way, and which the Minister does not even believe have been exposed to the infection.
24. This is, therefore, a power of quite extraordinary breadth. One wonders what the perceived need for such a power can possibly be. The Ministry's Explanatory Notes (said to be designed "to help inform debate" on the Bill), give no clue at all.
25. I have thought of one possible circumstance where the present slaughter power may be thought with some justification to be inadequate. That is a situation where, although it cannot presently be said that there has been exposure to the infection, there is good reason to believe that exposure will occur in the very near future. For instance, the infection may have occurred in an area which at times also contains a sizeable wild deer herd. Wild deer are of course no respecters of the boundaries of adjacent premises, and may move across several farms during the course of one night. If there is scientific evidence that deer movements may contribute to the spread of the disease, one might think that the slaughter of animals on farms where such movements may occur might be reasonably necessary, unless the susceptible animals on those farms can be protected by adequate bio-security (for instance by being housed, or protected by deer fencing, so that they do not come into contact with land over which the deer may have crossed).
26. Such a perceived gap in the legislation cannot, however, be what the Ministry is thinking of filling with the new power, because if it were it would be cast in much narrower terms. It would talk of the Minister having reason to believe that exposure to the infection was imminent.
27. The concern is that the Ministry is instead set on a course of obtaining for itself powers to create animal-free rings around infected premises or areas, whether those rings be on the basis of contiguity or geographical distance. Alarm has been expressed about this idea because the fear from which it stems (that neighbouring animals contribute to the spread of the disease) has not been scientifically tested, still less proven, and that the experience of those who have successfully resisted culls has generally been that the animals saved have not subsequently contracted the disease. Others have commented that it seems very odd that the Government should seek to rush through Parliament its desire to have such a power when there has not been a new fmd case for over a month and, perhaps even more significantly, when none of the Enquiries it has so far set up has reported.
And what about dogs and cats?And if there were a case of rabies?
Under the terms of the new animal health (amendment) bill....
11. Clause 2 enables the Minister to extend to diseases other than FMD the power to cause to be slaughtered for disease control purposes animals other than those affected, suspected of being infected or exposed to disease. (in other words, as well as giving the govt the right to kill any scrapie susceptible sheep, my dogs can be legally slaughtered if there is a case of rabies in the vicinity, even though they are perfectly healthy. So can yours. )
Power of entry 29. New section 36G provides powers of entry for inspectors or constables to carry out functions under new Part 2A. It will be possible to exercise this power at all reasonable times except for premises which are used only as private dwelling-houses, where 24 hours notice must be given. ( Does Mrs Beckett think that farm animals are kept in private dwellings as a rule? o, this refers to pets...so my dogs - or cats, or horses or other animals - won't be killed until I have been given 24 hours notice. 24 hours in which I am not allowed to do anything to save them.) 30. New section 36H makes further provision about powers of entry. These apply if there are reasonable grounds .... In such a case, a justice of the peace may issue a warrant authorising an inspector or a constable to enter premises, if necessary using reasonable force, for the purposes of carrying out their functions under Part 2A of the Act or to ascertain whether one of their functions should be exercised. ( I can be physically restrained from defending my animals by these "inspectors" or "constables" - and yes, i know just the type of person drawn to this type of job. We have seen a frightening number of them in the past eight months) New section 36I contains provisions where inspectors or constables enter premises under the powers in section 36G(1) or section 36H. It enables them to inspect and, if necessary seize and detain, records. (This is an extraordinary addition to powers to control disease. It means in effect that they can take away my computer and other records as well as my animals)
31. New section 36J creates offences relating to these powers of entry. ......a justice of the peace may issue a warrant authorising an inspector to enter premises, if necessary using reasonable force, for the purpose of ascertaining whether any power to cause animals to be slaughtered should be exercised and doing anything in pursuance of the exercise of that power. (pretty much carte blanche then to force an entry into our houses under the very slightest of pretexts. this is Britain, is it, in 2001?)
And when the cats too get BSE ?( as the sheep are supposed to, even though they can only contract BSE if some lunatic injects it straight into their brain?)
from the DEFRA website"...Although MAFF has not historically held responsibility for investigating disease, other than rabies, in domestic pets, most of the information gathered about FSE in domestic cats and zoo animals has been provided through the good will of owners and veterinary practitioners. Laboratory diagnosis of a spongiform encephalopathy in any species has however been notifiable since November 1994, thus ensuring that cases would not be missed.
Interestingly, when brain tissue from some of the early cats identified identified as having FSE, was inoculated into mice, the pattern of incubation periods and lesion profiles in the mice was indistinguishable from that produced by BSE."