Sirs,

I concur with Dr. Bill Cochrane (Journal 1 August) that it is absolutely clear the slaughter policy for foot and mouth disease isn't working. However, his concern that the vaccine wouldn't work is ill founded. A recent outbreak of the same type of F&MD in Holland was brought under control in 5 days using a combination of vaccination and slaughter. The Dutch have now resumed exports. Virologist, Dr. Ruth Watkins reassured those at a recent meeting in Penrith that the vaccine would work equally well here.

Before we could resume exports we would have to demonstrate to the EU that the disease was under control. With F&MD now thought to be endemic in hefted sheep and wild deer, this could only be achieved by vaccination. It is difficult to understand why the government and the NFU are reluctant to use immunisation, as there is no alternative short of killing every animal in the country, which would be both barbaric and a pyrrhic victory. What's more to the point, there is absolutely no guarantee that farms restocking wouldn't immediately be re-infected unless they vaccinate. This was recommended by the 1967 report and carried out at that time.

The use of vaccine is really a case of 'Hobson's Choice' because there is no viable alternative.

Yours,

John S. Pearson

Dear Ms Kenny,

OPEN LETTER: SLAUGHTER OF HEFTED FLOCKS

It is depressing to watch helplessly as the slaughter of irreplaceable animals continues on the Brecon Beacons, in Yorkshire and in Cumbria. This policy of devastation is incomprehensible, in the light of Ruth Watkins' paper, "LIMITED VACCINATION SCHEME TO CONTROL AND ERADICATE FOOT AND MOUTH DISEASE FROM THE CYNEFIN SHEEP OF WALES WITH SPECIAL REFERENCE TO THE BRECON BEACON NATIONAL PARK". Have you read this? If not, it is easily accessible on http://www.warmwell.com: click on "Vaccinate hefted flocks", third item down in the left-hand column of the home page.

I would be interested to hear your arguments against Dr Watkins' well-reasoned, and well-supported arguments.

As we try to work out why any government should waste billions of pounds of taxpayers' money, make a big hole in its own projected revenue, beggar or impoverish thousands of hard-working people, countenance the (frequently cruel) slaughter of millions of healthy animals, pollute the countryside, and generally inflict widespread misery on its own people, rather than institute a policy of vaccination (considered by leading world authorities to be the only way of halting a disease which may now be endemic among the wild-life population) at 50p a shot, it is no wonder that conspiracy theories are proliferating: surely only some sinister secret agenda could account for such a lack not only of sensibility, but of common sense!

Can you blame people for wondering whether FMD is being used as a convenient way of introducing controversial changes to our countryside? It is certainly true that the elimination of "uneconomic" small-scale farmers is an end devoutly wished by political elites planning "integrated spatial development" throughout "EU territory"; and there are also rumours that densely forested carbon sinks, fulfilling our Kyoto obligations at a stroke, while accommodating a future influx of docile and well-regulated tourists, are being planned for Wales and Cumbria: but even if this is what the government is aiming for, and even if it were overwhelmingly endorsed by the many individuals (as opposed to favoured special-interest groups) who actually live in the places affected, this is a mean and nasty way of driving a policy forward. Indeed, many people would call it a clearance.

When are those advocating a common-sense, humane, and thrifty policy of vaccination going to receive a respectful answer from those who have the power to ruin so many lives?

In the confidence that you are open-minded enough to take a fresh look at current policy,

Gillian Swanson.

Sir,

Dr. Cochrane asks: "How much longer will it be before the Government accepts the need for vaccination?" (Letters, August 1).

One reason why the government is sticking with the slaughter programme is because it has the adamant backing of the NFU. Indeed when Ministers considered switching to a vaccination policy in April, NFU leader Ben Gill made clear that, if this were done, they would withdraw all support.

If Northern farmers want an end to the costly and ineffective slaughter policy, which seems to be the opinion of many who write to The Journal, perhaps they should be applying pressure, not just to the Government, but to their own union. If the NFU were faced with mass resignations, maybe they would be forced to alter their obdurate stance on this issue.

John Bourn,
Gateshead