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Some thoughts which have been nagging away.

The results of the experiments conducted by the IAH at Edinburgh on what were supposed to be sheep brains would have been made known in advance to government. Since the brains used in the experiments were, as now reported, cattle brains, probably from BSE infected cattle, it is likely that the experiments showed significant infection with BSE. If it is true, as has been said by government, that BSE infects the bodies of sheep and goats more extensively than it does the bodies of cattle and that it is necessary to remove any sheep and goats that might be infected from the food chain, the extent of the BSE infection indicated by the mistaken research might well have indicated [as has been reported] a necessity to slaughter the entire sheep flock and goat herd in the UK.

The resistance to the contiguous and firebreak culls in FMD/2001 had established that the Minister did not have the power to order the slaughter of healthy livestock. In order to succeed in killing healthy livestock on the massive scale advised by the epidemiologists, it had been necessary to pay very generous rates for the compulsory purchase of the animals to be slaughtered: up to four times their market value. On the Brecon Beacons, the compulsory purchase payments for hill ewes which might be worth in the region of £35.00 were reported to have been £180.00.

It would have been apparent that gaining the owners' consents necessary for the slaughtering of the entire sheep flock in order to remove the threat of BSE would have been extremely problematical and expensive [- setting aside the horrifying and unavoidable logistical difficulties of killing the animals and destroying the carcasses. Unlike FMD, for which diagnostic tests which can be applied to live animals exist, in the case of BSE there is no diagnostic test which can be used on live animals. BSE can only be confirmed by post-mortem.

This would mean that the government would be faced with the prospect of attempting to carry out the wholesale slaughter of about 40 million apparently healthy animals. It is hard to see how the Minister would be able to establish that there had been exposure to infection or that there were 'reasonable grounds' for suspecting infection or exposure.

If the owners of the sheep or goats were to refuse to agree voluntarily to the killing of their apparently healthy animals, it is hard to see how the DEFRA killing squads could expect to be able to enforce the killing. The experience of legal and passive defence has been gained in FMD/2001and precedents have been established in the fighting of the contiguous cull.

It could be anticipated that a continuation of the high level of compulsory purchase payments would have been required and even with a generous level of payment, it could be expected that total slaughter would have been hard to achieve. In order to compulsorily purchase 40 million animals, at a rate of £180 per head, the total bill would be £7,200,000,000.

With this prospect, it seems feasible that, aware of what would be reported by the IAH Edinburgh, the government set about drafting the current Animal Health Bill. This would overcome the difficulties experienced in the contiguous and firebreak culls - and enable the kind of slaughtering foreseen to be required in connection with BSE. This would empower the government to slaughter any animal it chose, without any need to demonstrate that it was infected, exposed to infection or reasonably likely to be at risk of infection. These new powers would remove the necessity for the government to pay so generously for the compulsory purchase of the sheep and goats. If the average payment could be dropped from £180.00 to £50.00 per sheep or goat, the purchase payments for 40 million animas would drop from £7,200,000,000 to £2,000,000,000 - a saving of £5,200,000,000. If the average payment could be kept to an average of £35.00 per head the bill would drop to £1,400,000,000.

When the BSE experiments were shown to be faulty, the immediate requirement for special provisions for BSE in sheep and goats were no longer needed. Perhaps the draughtsmen of the Bill, rewrote it, removing all reference to BSE and directing it primarily at FMD [the current 'hot topic'] to which everyone could relate the provisions of the Bill, but keeping a residue of the provisions for BSE in a set of provisions for scrapie.

Perhaps the real reason why the Bill is being rushed through before the FMD inquiries have reported: it is because the Bill was not originally [and in fact is still not] primarily directed at FMD.

This might explain not only why the Bill is being put through its procedures without consultation and with such apparently unnecessary haste; but why it contains the seemingly illogical and ill founded provisions for scrapie.

The process of the Bill had been set in motion on the basis that it was thought, erroneously, that evidence of extensive BSE infection in sheep had been 'found'. Even though this evidence has been discredited, the Bill is still being treated as an urgent contingency. In case BSE is discovered? - or because there are there are other experimental results not yet made public? - or because other results will be 'arranged' when the Bill is safely in place?

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