In response to your points re: you are " happy to discuss them" your comments are in "..." mine underneath.
" 30% of British high quality lamb is exported on average each year, almost exclusively to Europe." Mostly on trucks where an average journey non-stop of 14 hours is not uncommon, by the end of which the sheep are then killed as soon as they step out of the truck , if not already dead due to dehydration and fear. Hopefully this will be addressed in the 'new farming' agenda.
"Unless the national flock is radically reduced in size, the glut of lamb will certainly lead to a massive surplus on the home market and totally uneconomic returns for almost all commercial sheep farmers. This has serious implications for farmers and animal welfare."
I was talking/writing to Bernard Mathews (plc not the bloke) and all of the supermarkets last year about why they buy in foreign rather than use domestic and I have had the same answer from all of them - foreign is cheaper, and our meat packing industry is not willing to preapre the meat to the standard that New Zealand and others can. Again, this is something for the new farming agenda. The Swedish have managed it very successfully.
"Had the "cull" been done in an effective, logical and humane manner, - this was one of the reasons that this was perceived as the most effective way to safeguard the economics of lamb production."
Sadly, the cull is not being done humanely according to best practice, and according to Welfare and Slaughter act 1995, animals are not to be subjected to unnecessary fear and suffering.
Chasing a sheep around and peppering it with 4 shots (Wilvern 12th April) after first shooting it in the ear is not humane (more cases than that available).
"E.E.C. intervention buying at currently funded levels can only cope with a 1 or 2 % disparity between supply and demand, and the stored excess production would be extremely difficult or impossible to absorb in future years in the home market alone."
We paid the EEC 6 billion pounds in 1999 for them to give us 3.1 billion back in subsidies - they should be able to afford it! How many 3rd world countries would be glad of the over production where they are starving?
"Vaccination was never intended for protection of commercial flocks only to slow down spread"
An emergency vaccination strategy, with stamping out of infected cases, was vigorously promoted and financially supported by the EU and was very effective in the control of type A FMD in Albania (Berlinzani et a, 1998) and neighbouring Macedonia in 1996, with elimination of outbreaks within 12 weeks and 3 weeks respectively.
The former was the first outbreak in the region and therefore international responses were delayed; in the latter an area as large as Cumbria was involved and 120,000 cattle were vaccinated, and 4,500 cattle destroyed.
>. Berlinzani, A, Brocchi, B.,& Simone, F. (1998). Report of the Session of >the Research group of the European Commission for the Control of >Foot-and-mouth disease. FAO, Rome, pp166-175. Sorensen, K.J., & >Naletoski, I. (1998). Ibid, pp 176-181."Many of the problems of man-power shortage, supply and logisitics, so evident in the first 2 months of the outbreak, would equally have applied to vaccination" An infrastucture is available that is capable of rapidly deploying vaccination (we have highly motivated and technically competent farm staff used to vaccinating their own animals and hundreds of veterinarians and veterinary students available to undertake the work) The national flock could be vaccinated in 2 weeks (Elm Farm research)
"All stock on farms where vaccination was carried out would have needed to be examined, and in the case of sheep blood-tested, to try and ensure it was used appropriately"
"As you should be aware, Pirbright were totally overwhelmed with the massive workload of blood testing, even at the comparatively low levels involved with a cull policy."
If they had accepted and tested Prof Fred Brown's mobile test kit, they could have tested at the farm gate and had results in 2 hours. But they were too busy fannying with being totally overwhelmed.
"In my humble opinion, in a situation of gross overproduction, and a disease which is extremely difficult to identify or refute in sheep, culling remains a necessary evil, in order to save the national dairy and beef herds."
I, and I am sure you wouldn't approve of batting pigs on heads with shovels, and battering cows with spanners as part of this necessary evil?The tests that are coming back are indicating that the positive proportion of infected animals is around 10% of the culled total.
"I am unaware of any country where vaccination has eradicated the current (more virulent) pan-asiatic strain of foot and mouth. It has only been used in conjunction with culling, with only limited success"
As noted for pan asiatic Macedonia 1996, effective and rapid deployment of vaccination reduced the total period of reported FMD cases to 3 weeks, despite over 18 villages in two districts being involved and avoided establishment in he sheep population of the region.
"It must be remembered that export of lamb to Europe will only be permitted to resume some time after the last vaccinated animal is culled. There is the theoretical possibility this could be done regionally within the U.K., but enforcement and verification would be a considerable hurdle. Sheep aren't ear-tagged! The french would certainly not look kindly on further outbreaks of disease spread from the U.K." The ramifications for farmers of emergency vaccination are almost certainly better than the current culling policy; but depend on whether MAFF opts for one of the following options:
Vaccination in the restricted zones to prevent transmission and risk to surrounding areas, followed by slaughter of vaccinated animals and active cases.
This would enable a return to FMD free status in 3 months under the OIE Animal Health Code (see: www.oie.int), and despite the apparent severity of the requirement that vaccinated animals would be eventually slaughtered, the latter could occur in a progressive, orderly manner, allowing germ plasm from very valued blood lines to be stored for later re-stocking/breed resuscitation, and be more acceptable locally than mass culling.
However in national terms, return to free status would be regained after 3 months of disease freedom and after cull of the last vaccinated animals.
Just three months! When we had BSE the French refused to accept our beef for months after it was agreed for export by the EU, and we had to take them to the EU court to get them to accept it.
Who gives a stuff about the export market anyway when it is worth #500 million compared to the current bill - and climbing - of £8 billion to attempt containment of FMD?
Am I wrong? Am I misguided? Or am I witness to something which in Magnus Linklater's opinion is where 'The research was wrong, the science was outdated, the slaughter unnecessary, the policy unethical, and the strategy ineffective'(April 26th , The Times)?
In my mind there is no doubt - these animals died for Labour, and Blair/Brown will have the blood of this on their hands for ever.