Just a few transcripts of some of the speeches made

In the Forest of Dean for the EU Enquiry Team visit

Saturday 22nd June

 

 

Caroline Lucas MEP

Thank you for your evidence this morning. I think what we have heard has underlined what we have heard from the visits we have made in Devon and Wales and now in Gloucestershire. We have heard stories of the enormous arrogance and incompetence of the National Authorities and we have heard stories of the enormous harassment and illegal actions that have taken place. We have heard stories of the abuse of animal rights but also the abuse of peoples legal and human rights, and we have heard stories of devastatingly wrong science, and perhaps no where more so than when it comes to the issue of the contiguous cull. I do thank those people today who have focused on that issue, as I do believe that it is vital evidence that we need to hear. It seems to me that we have heard very clear evidence that the contiguous cull policy was unnecessary and unjustified, it was based on a computer model which was itself dependent on utterly inadequate data and completely false assumptions. It hugely overestimated, for example, the role of windborne spread, and we have got evidence from Alex Donaldson himself, from Pirbright, which suggests that the most likely transmission distance, the greatest possible distance was more likely to have been 200 metres, and not these vast regions that were being culled. Looking back as well, it is very clear from the data that you cannot claim that it was the contiguous cull that began to bring down the numbers of outbreaks that we saw, that by the time that the contiguous cull policy would have really had an impact, the peak was already coming down. I think finally it is very clear that we need a proper full Public Enquiry in this country, our EU enquiry cannot be a substitute for that, but it can bring out very important recommendations on issues around vaccination, import controls, around the importance of a properly understood and properly rehearsed contingency plan. I repeat that we do of course, need a Public Enquiry in this country because it is quite clear that crimes were committed and people need to be brought to account for those crimes, and until they have been, we have no security that if such an outbreak happens again, we will not have the same incompetent bungling.

Gail Bennett

 

My husband and I fought a contiguous cull on our 35 beef cattle. First however, I would like to mention to Mrs Organ, if you think that all of the killing that went on meant that it was efficient and worked, perhaps we should have gone to Afghanistan and kill everybody, because that seems to have been your policy with the cattle. Just because FMD stopped doesn’t mean that the policy was right, it wasn’t, we fought a contiguous cull because Maff were incompetent enough to be unable to find us, they were unable to find Bennet in our village, a village of precisely 15 residents. We were lucky, we told them we weren’t going to go, and that we wanted to wait for the test results. The test results came back negative on day 12, they were negative, Maff’s reply to this was that it was irrelevant and that the tests could be wrong, and that perhaps the vet was incompetent. Well, if the vet was incompetent, so was his clinical opinion. On the day that they found out the results were negative, cow after cow, 500 cattle were shot, a 1000 sheep were shot. The vet himself was unsure that it was FMD, but Page Street told him to declare it positive. That to me is the most disgraceful aspect of this whole epidemic, to ignore science when you are saying science said from this computer model. What we did in this country was wrong, and I hope Europe will tell us that we cannot ever do this again.

 

Keith Morgan

 

Im a local farmer, I'm one of the guys that Diane Organ spoke about just now and clearly is under the misapprehension that we are all small farmers. I have over a thousand lives on my farm I lived a life of hell, thanks to the incompetence of this Government, and I will not tolerate another happening like this, and it is with great thanks to the local community that they supported me through these difficult times. One thing that has come from this, is that it was clearly a disaster. I don’t think that as a farmer we should be put through this, I don’t think that anything constructive has happened since the last outbreak. I am concerned about the way the animals were handled during the killing and after when they were left. I will put it to you that we are not hoping, we are bloody well demanding that this doesn’t happen again.

 

Pat Innocent

 

I have twenty sheep and I still have twenty sheep after they were blood tested negative. I would like to tell you a story about a pet cow called Moo who was killed in the grounds of a pub and people were sitting there having their Sunday lunch, and Maff came and killed this cow with no warning whatsoever, and the reasons given were that they didn’t want the protesters to come and stop them. Diane Organ says that clinical symptoms are very difficult to spot, well I agree with that, so why don’t they blood test them? .They said it was too expensive in the case of Moo the cow, well I bought my own, they were available, here they are, I did them myself,  I had the results the next day, I had to wait two weeks for the results from Maff, these are all negative, they were #8 each. I would like to say, with all due respect to Diane Organ, you are not an expert in FMD, Paul Kitching is, he said blood tests negative means negative.

 

Barbara Jordan, solicitor from Ross on Wye

 

I do want to pick up on the points made by the farmers on the floor here, that the Government appeared to take a lot of illegal action, a lot of which was ineffective. It was only because of the farmgate protests that a lot of these culls were prevented, saving what in the end turned out to be healthy animals. The action that was taken by Maff/Defra was

Harassing, had it been taken by a private individual by say a man ringing his girlfriend, she would have been entitled to legal action, and an injunction to prevent this from happening. One farmer I know was telephoned hour by hour throughout a Sunday by DEFRA, and that action was entirely illegal. Since then, the Government have taken stronger powers to take action for TSE sheep. Even now, farmers are not entitled to legal aid. They have no funding to do it, and it is no secret that lawyers are not cheap. I feel very strongly that there was no organisation or politician ready to protect the rights of these farmers.I think the bureaucracy that everyone is facing is part of the problem.

 

Mark Harper Conservative MP

 

I was actually called in by some neighbours, on behalf of Sean Saunders a local farmer, on Saturday 21st April last year when he was having difficulty with harassment from DEFRA. I attended the farm gate protest with members of the Foot and Mouth Action Group and I too witnessed at first hand the incompetence and harassment on behalf of the ministry. The Ministry official was unclear of his position, he was not able to describe the legal basis he was acting. It subsequently transpires that he didn’t have the legal powers. They turned up on en masse, if Mr Saunders had suffered the full weight of that on hi sown, his sheep would have been killed. Fortunately, we were able to challenge Maff, who were unable to explain his legal position, and was unable to explain why My Saunders sheep could not be blood tested before the slaughter, he kept repeating the mantra that there would be a test post mortem. The most powerful speakers this morning were from those farmers who represented the human tragedy, my concern is that the Government is trying to give itself the powers that it didn’t have at the time with the Animal Health Bill.

 

Bill Osborne

 

I would like to follow on from what Mark has said, that apart from what the animals have suffered, the people have suffered. I would like to ask what plans are afoot to bring people to trial for aggravated suicide. Now there was a lot of suicide into the 20s and 30s of people whose animals were taken, it wasn’t so much the fact that they had the disease, as a farmer I was nowhere near as afraid of the disease as I was of a Ministry man coming up our drive.  The government took no responsibility whatsoever for the deaths of these farmers, so I hope you take this into account, and ask why there has been no action to bring some of these Ministry vets to trial.

 

Brian Foreman

 

I am an intensive beef farmer, and I would just like to say that whether it was the luck of the draw or no, the Ministry to inspected our farm were abominable. The first one that arrived, he stripped off, put his protective clothing on first, and then he put his other clothes on top. Not one of them was capable of walking for an hour, they arrived back to the farm in a terrible state, their waterproofs dragging behind them. Due to the problems with moving animals around, we have cows still calving when they should have calved in March, and it will be three years to get back to where we are. It was desperate for us as farmers, who was giving the instructions, people were sent out on some farms with rifles, now anybody with any nouse know you cannot go out into a field and shoot animals with rifles.

 

Chris Stockdale

 

I am a farmer from Herefordshire, and my animals were culled. I have three points really, firstly we can more or realise that the FMD virus is an economic virus, it is not really a killing disease, and certainly doesn’t kill people. I was certainly far more scared about the Ministry and the contiguous cull than I ever was of the disease itself. Secondly, I would like more interest to be focused on the source of the disease, about the missing phial, our MP asked in the Commons about this, and he was assured that when it was all over, that further investigations would take place. I have spoken to Paul Keach about that, and his reply to me remains confidential, but I would like you to ask Paul Keach about this please.  My final point is that as a farmer, I regard myself as in a position of stewardship, I have a responsibility to DEFRA which is very clear, I have a responsibility for my animals. But I would also like to hear about DEFRA’s responsibility to my animals, it is a two way street, this is an economic virus, but not everything in life or creation can be measured in pounds, shillings, and pence.  We have an environmental responsibility which includes the lives of the creatures within it.

 

 

Neil Parish MEP

 

Good morning I am delighted that we are here this morning and be able to speak to you this morning and listen to what you have to say. The reason for why we are here is because we the Conservatives along with the Liberal democrats and the Greens actually pushed this through the European Parliament and who was opposing it, the Socialists all the way, and so I don’t want to make any more political points but let’s make that very clear. What we have done as we have travelled through the Uk, we have travelled through Cumbria and Northumberland, Wales and through into Devon. Yesterday, we were on a farm  where a cull took place of all of the cattle and sheep on that farm and 20 thousand further animals were culled and not one of those farms ever had foot and mouth, so we can see clearly what happened. The human side of it has come through loud and clear and we do have to be sure that we have learned the lessons and this is I think what we are so worried about, because we are worried now that we have the animal health bill before us and we are carrying on with more draconian powers instead of learning those lessons. Many points have been raised by the rapporteur we do have to look at a proper contingency plan for the future, we also have to look at more compensation that could have been given, it is no good that the Government are hiding behind European state aid rules, because when Lord Haskins came and gave evidence he said the British civil service could have looked at those rules and actually interpreted them in a different way, so there is much more that could be done in this country. What we have got to do as a European Enquiry is set down the parameters to make sure that we tighten up on Meat imports, and animal movements but not to restrict it so much that you can’t carry on farming, and we have got to be certain that when we have got these regulations in place that we don’t allow imports that don’t conform to those standards. We have taken on board the message, we will take it back to Brussels, and we will issue a very strong report. In the end it is down to the British Government to do something about it, I am delighted that Mrs Organ seems to have been converted on the road to Damascus in calling for a Public Enquiry, I hope that if we vote on the Commons floor for a Public

Enquiry she will actually support that, because a Labour Government hasn’t. We really do need a Public Enquiry, but this is a good start, and we have learnt a lot about the suffering and we will do something about it.

 

Mr Gordon Adam MEP

 

Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you very much for coming to this meeting. We have certainly learnt of the passion and anger that has surrounded the FMD outbreak and we have understood the stress and the anguish which many of you have been through. It hasn’t come as a surprise to me, as I come from the North East of England, and live a short distance from where the outbreak was suspected to have started.

We do know that during the whole of this outbreak a lot of things were done badly, and some were done wrongly. Mrs Bayley made one very important point that it was indeed a unique experience, it was the larger disease outbreak in the World, and we must never forget that. Diane Organ made a very important point, when you have to start with the way that the disease was coming into the country. While I don’t want to be too controversial this morning, I have to say that some of the evidence that has been given has been rather selective. We haven’t had, and I regret this, a discussion about the nature of how the virus spreads, and why it is so difficult to control. Throughout the disease outbreak, the policy was made very clear to me as the Agricultural Spokesman for the labour MEP’s , that they would follow the advice of the Standing Veterinary Committee of the European Union. In contrast to when the BSE crisis, that the Government at that time did not follow the Standing Veterinary Committee and that was with a disease that was potentially dangerous to humans. Of course, the Government policy was also backed up by a wide ranging scientific group headed by the Government Chief Scientist, it was also backed up by the National Farmers Union

Interruption  ‘Disgrace!’whose leaders have since been re-elected.

Vaccination has been much talked about. I have to tell you in all fairness, that the bulk of the evidence that we have had in our committee has been quite clear that vaccination could not have been applied in the United Kingdom outbreak with any hope of bringing the disease under control. Who have you been listening to then? That’s absolute rubbish. Where were you last week on Monday? I was there on Monday on Tuesday for the whole session. So you heard Fred Brown speak? I was there for the whole of the hearing.

Then you weren’t listening then, were you? I was listening and my notes are over there.

Then we had better look at them , as they are not complete.

I also believe that vaccination has to be looked at in more detail, but it would not have worked in the circumstances that we had. I also have to tell you that without the culling policy the disease would not have been brought under control. Rubbish!

 

Caroline Lucas MEP

 

Thank you for your evidence this morning. I think what we have heard has underlined what we have heard from the visits we have made in Devon and Wales and now in Gloucestershire. We have heard stories of the enormous arrogance and incompetence of the National Authorities and we have heard stories of the enormous harassment and illegal actions that have taken place. We have heard stories of the abuse of animal rights but also the abuse of people’s legal and human rights, and we have heard stories of devastatingly wrong science, and perhaps no where more so than when it comes to the issue of the contiguous cull. I do thank those people today who have focused on that issue, as I do believe that it is vital evidence that we need to hear.  It seems to me that we have heard very clear evidence that the contiguous cull policy was unnecessary and unjustified,  it was based on a computer model which was itself dependent on utterly inadequate data and completely false assumptions. It hugely overestimated, for example, the role of windborne spread, and we have got evidence from Alex Donaldson himself, from Pirbright, which suggests that the most likely transmission distance, the greatest possible distance was more likely to have been 200 metres, and not these vast regions that were being culled. Looking back as well, it is very clear from the data that you cannot claim that it was the contiguous cull that began to bring down the numbers of outbreaks that we saw, that by the time that the contiguous cull policy would have really had an impact, the peak was already coming down. I think finally it is very clear that we need a proper full Public Enquiry in this country, our EU enquiry cannot be a substitute for that, but it can bring out very important recommendations on issues around vaccination, import controls, around the importance of a properly understood and properly rehearsed contingency plan. I repeat that we do of course, need a Public Enquiry in this country  because it is quite clear that crimes were committed and people need to be brought to account for those crimes, and until they have been, we have no security that if such an outbreak happens again, we will not have the same incompetent bungling.