To the Lessons Learned Inquiry
This submission is made on behalf of the Council of The British Llama and Alpaca Association (BLAA) and has been prepared by Mary Marshall, Co-opted Council Member, in consultation with Rodney Newth, Co-Chairman of the British Llama and Alpaca Association.
(Mary Marshall is also a member of the US Animal Health Association.)
BLAA is the operating name of British Camelids Ltd, the breed association for camelids in the UK.
The State Veterinary Service and the Institute for Animal Health Pirbright laboratory urgently need increased funding in terms of budget, staff and facilities.
Vaccination should play a major role prevention and control of FMD. There should be an open debate with all of the leading players on the efficacy of various vaccination policies. However:
- ring vaccination followed by slaughter is unnecessary and unethical.
- EU practice must be changed to prevent use of vaccination having adverse effect on exports once the epidemic is over.
Communication must be improved:
- Between stakeholders/government
- Between other experts and government - i.e. rapid diagnostic tests
- Accurate databases of holdings and boundaries
- Test results to owners / professional bodies
Response should be proportionate to the risk.
This applies to control of the epidemic and to preventive measures in the aftermath of the epidemic.
- Benefit of the doubt should be given to measures which do not involve slaughter.
- Use should be made, or at least seriously considered, of available new technologies.
- Human, as well as animal, welfare must be taken into account.
- The effect on all sectors of the economy must be taken into account
Differentiation of species, and further research, are necessary
The proposed amendments to the Animal Health Bill are unnecessary and potentially harmful.
The dominance of trade issues as a driving force determining policy should be reviewed.
Important questions that need to be addressed have been summarised in the skeleton document submitted to the High Court by Stephen Smith QC for the Judicial Review on the Lessons Learned Inquiry:
Issue 1: Was the Government unprepared for a major animal disease epidemic? Was it aware of warnings made during 2000 about the risk of spread of the Pan Asian O strain to Europe? What contingency plans were in place, and were they followed? Did those plans take fully into account the Northumberland conclusions and recommendations?
Issue 2: Did the Government react quickly enough? Did it have sufficient resources at its disposal? Was the depth of administrative and scientific expertise adequate for dealing with the outbreak?
Issue 3: Should there have been an immediate imposition of a national ban on livestock movement? Should the army have been called on earlier than the middle of March?
Issue 4: How did the epidemic start? Did it start at the pig unit in the North East, and if so, how did it get there? Are there vulnerabilities and failings in the existing regime governing meat imports?
Issue 5: How was the disease spread? Did the Ministry's own contractors play a role? Or the vets the Ministry employed? Did burning carcasses on pyres contribute to the spread? Should more rigorous biosecurity measures be applied, and should farmers be trained in how to implement them?
Issue 6: Were the Government's culling policies the right approach? If so why did they change during the epidemic? Were they lawful? Should slaughter have been limited to infected premises? Should greater discretion have been given to local vets? Were farmers given clear and consistent information and advice?
Issue 7: Is vaccination a viable alternative control measure? If so, should the appropriate procedure be ring vaccination in the event of an outbreak, or regular prophylactic vaccination?
Issue 8: What tests are valid to determine whether animals are infected? Do the tests distinguish between infected and vaccinated animals?
Issue 9: Were the movement restrictions too severe? Did they last for too long? Need they have been implemented nationwide? Was the movement licensing system practical and accessible?
Issue 10: What is the probability and level of transmissibility of fmd by various vectors, including public access to the countryside?
Issue 11: Was the compensation payable sufficient? Was it paid quickly enough? Should it have been extended to those who did not lose their animals, or to those who had no animals at all but whose businesses suffered in consequence of fmd? What other assistance should the Government afford to those affected? Should farmers be permitted to insure against the consequences of an fmd epidemic?
Issue 12: Should there be greater involvement of local government in any decisions taken to control future epidemics? How can lines of communication best be improved between the Ministry and local government bodies?
Note should be taken of the following summary, also in the above skeleton document. References given can be obtained if required:
The extent of the devastation
It appears that when she announced her decision the Secretary of State was acting under a serious misapprehension about the total number of animals slaughtered and therefore the number of farms and communities affected. The Ministry has consistently referred to a figure of 4 million animals slaughtered. This, however, does not include the 2 million animals slaughtered under the LWDS. Nor does it include followers. Recent estimates are that the total number may be closer to 11 million animals slaughtered (see 7/2088-9).
It is thought that at the time the disease was discovered, the British livestock population stood at about 56 million animals (though many of these - particularly ewes - would be expected to give birth in the Spring). It is not an unrealistic calculation that about 1/8 of Britain's farming animals were slaughtered during the epidemic (2A/421).
It also seems unlikely that at the time the decision was made the Secretary of State could have been aware how relatively few of these animals had actually tested positive for fmd, because when she was asked on 20.11.01 what the serological results were, she was unable to give a ready answer, and indeed did not answer the question until 8.1.02 (7/2179).
In other words, it seems overwhelmingly likely that when she made her decision the Respondent was unaware of the true extent of the spread of the virus and was proceeding on a mistaken assumption as to the number of farmers who had lost their livestock. The large imbalance between the number of premises on which animals were proven to have been infected and the number of premises which had their livestock slaughtered is a significant factor to be taken into consideration when assessing whether the inquiry should proceed in public or in private.
Channels of Communication must be improved and expanded.
It is essential to have the channels already in place when a crisis develops.
Stakeholders meetings should be expanded - see proposal to DEFRA dated 7 March 2002, included as attached electronic file, with extracts below:
1 The current participants at the Stakeholders meetings should be expanded to include individuals and organisations which are involved in the issues: representatives of animal breed and welfare societies, smallholder organisations, the RCVS and BVA, the private and commercial sector (including countryside and tourist organisations), academia, the IAH (especially Pirbright), and central and regional government departments (including Trading Standards and Customs and Excise). Consideration should be given to assistance with funding for representatives who have no outside sources of funding to enable them to participate in the meetings (e.g., voluntary representatives from some of the smallholders and breed associations).
2. The database of current participants seems to be restricted to contact by e-mail. I would suggest backing this up with postal addresses, since e-mail addresses are not permanent, and if one representative moves on to another job, that organisation may no longer be receiving information.
3. Invitations to make contact and to participate should be posted on the DEFRA, and other, websites.
4. Meetings should be announced by DEFRA on the internet and by mail along with their normal CPH mailshots.
5. The minutes of meetings should be made available on the internet. During the meetings, anything of a confidential nature could be clearly stated as such in order not to hinder free and open discussion. (See the proceedings of the Forest Forum Working Groups for a model, www.forestforum.org.uk )
6. Agendas, background papers and hyperlinks should be made available on the internet by the Forum coordinator(s).
Since the increased number of attendees would mean the loss of the conviviality of sitting around a table, some other means should be sought to maintain this.
5. One possibility might be, at least during "peacetime", for Large Meetings to take place at least twice a year and to last at least one full day, with two or three long breaks to allow for corridor discussions. One of the Large Meetings could be in London and the other in Birmingham or further north. These meetings would include all members and cover a broad spectrum of issues. Working Group meetings could meet as and where necessary. On a larger (and future) scale, consideration could be given to the format of the USAHA meetings, where the doors are open and people freely wander from one room to another.
6. All participants at meetings should wear name tags which clearly identify their name and their organisation. These can be printed direct from the address list onto sticky labels.
As a representative of one of the lesser breed species, camelids, my initial contact with DEFRA was by formal letters. At a time of crisis, it is perhaps understandable that this proved inadequate. It was not until Rodney Newth, representing the breed society (the British Llama and Alpaca Association), and I invited ourselves to the Stakeholders meetings, that progress was made towards a more reasonable treatment of camelids. My initial reaction to the Stakeholders meetings was of intrusion into a small, established, convivial group. This feeling was generated more by some of the other stakeholders than by DEFRA staff. In fact, DEFRA staff have consistently been friendly, helpful and open-minded. I regret that we did not invite ourselves sooner. It was with some sadness that I heard at the last meeting, in February 2002, the representative of the British Goat Society saying that this was the first time he attended a Stakeholders meeting and wished to protest against goats being grouped with sheep. We went through this months ago, and received very fair treatment. I would hope that in future all key players will be included in the consultation process. Trade is important, but other interests should also have a voice.
I suspect that DEFRA staff might equally benefit from personal contact with representatives of a broad spectrum of interests. One of the most tragic aspects of the early months of the FMD outbreak was the lack of mutual understanding between policy makers and those on the ground. Certainly one lesson that can be learned is that a freer flow of information would probably have avoided some of the misunderstandings and consequent anger generated on all sides. This applies not only to the Ministry, but within some of the larger organisations, such as the NFU, which would have benefited from a dialogue in an informal atmosphere of cooperation. Perhaps some of the decisions taken might have been different. If everyone could have heard the views of scientists like Paul Kitching in opposition to the contiguous and 3 km culls, perhaps the modellers might not have been able to have such a dominant influence leading to a new, untried and draconian policy. I appreciate that this is a contentious view, but strongly feel that it should have been debated at the time.
[based on the model of the Tropical Forest Forum:]
Previous Conservative administrations and the current Labour administration have both expressed at least some commitment to an open style of government. At least within tropical forestry, the government agencies responsible have felt that it is better to listen to different points of view at a formative stage in policy making, rather than to deal with flak from social and environmental NGOs, concerned academics and the private sector after policy has been developed behind closed doors solely within the government sector. ... It gives government more confidence when 30 diverse people around a table agree that a given action or policy would be sensible, or at least acceptable. People can see that there have been observable changes in government policy.
Vaccination is our preferred method of prevention and control. We believe that the vaccines do work well enough to be used, as outlined in other submissions, and in our own submission to the Royal Society Inquiry.
For a more conservative viewpoint which we could support as a minimal use of vaccination, we report Paul Kitching's comments received by email:
(13 Sept:):) "Concerning the call for vaccination, this is an option, but should not be considered as a final solution, the vaccine simply does not work that well. I would still be in favour of intensive serology and basic epidemiology to identify the infected animals, plus vaccination where appropriate. This has been successful everywhere else that have had fmd. Large scale slaughter is not the answer, and has clearly not worked."
(And 17 Sept:) "Concerning vaccination, I have explained my opinion to you, basically if it is used for the right reason, with obtainable objectives, it should be used - as in the case of the cattle in Cumbria, and possibly to contain the existing hot spots."
The following points are mainly relevant when vaccination is not accepted policy.
Priority should have been to discover where the disease was and to immediately slaughter infected animals.
More use should be made of serology. Extensive use of serology as basis for slaughter. There was an opportunity for serological survey. (Pirbright tested more than 3 million samples.)
Further comments received by e-mail from Paul Kitching:
(16 June:) "I actually believe there were fewer outbreaks because so many of the samples we received were negative; the vets didn't have the option to wait for a diagnosis because the modellers insisted on the 24 hour cull.
As for the 3 km cull, this was always ridiculous as long as it was sheep affected, because not only is the transmission rate low in sheep, meaning that only a few are infected at once, but their aerosol production is minimal. The only reason it ever got going in sheep was because at the markets which took place before the movement ban, the farmers and sheep dealers went from pen to pen examining the mouths and teeth of each animal - a perfect way to spread FMD."
(24 June): "what no-one seems to have comprehended fully is that because of the 24 hour cull policy, and because it is not possible to be sure of a clinical diagnosis in sheep, very many of the infected premises were not infected in the first place, making the DC's and contiguous cull even more illogical." And then (2 July): "It is difficult to believe that they would continue on the contiguous cull policy without obtaining laboratory confirmation of spread. I think this would be the best argument, namely to insist on serology before any decision to slaughter."
"I doubt they will find many, if any positive sheep in the mountains; again all the evidence would suggest that even if one or two were infected, there would be no spread - this is what happened in Italy in 1993 and Greece in 1994 and 1996, and of course they didn't slaughter the seropositive flocks."
In reply to the judgement in the Upton vs DEFRA case (7 July): "It makes interesting reading, but the whole issue is like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. Blood testing for FMD virus or antibody is easy and will give a 100% answer as to whether the animals are or have been infected. It is almost that the Ministry is divining by witchcraft whether or not the animals are infected rather than using the laboratory which they support themselves (it is not a MAFF lab, but BBSRC, however, the Dept doing the testing is supported by MAFF with approx 1 million pounds of contracts). It is not even that the animals would need to be slaughtered immediately because the sheep don't produce much virus, and the pig would soon be diagnosed clinically if it had FMD. It's all very strange."
The contingency plan should include a more rapid and broader remit for the Army.
Rapid diagnostic devices which had been offered should have been used in conjunction with accepted tests and should have been fast-tracked for validation. This was not possible because Pirbright did not have enough manpower, especially during the height of the epidemic. It should have been possible, however, during the tail end of the epidemic.
From a letter to the Veterinary Record, June 30, 2001, "Pen-side test for investigating FMD", Nigel Ferris, Scott Reid, Geoff Hutchings, Paul Kitching (from IAH-Pirbright) and others from Central Science Laboratory in York, state that "The opportunity arose for this device to be tested in field conditions on two suspected FMD-infected premises. The results, incomparison with those arising from laboratory analysis, are shown in Table 1 on p 824. The device operated successfully on each occasion...These very preliminary results suggest that the lateral flow device holds promise for assisting veterinarians to investigate suspected cases of FMD in the field and to minimise the time from confirmation until slaughter and disposal. Further studies are in progress to generate additional data for comparing the performance of the system with established methods."
How long does it take for such a promising device to be validated? If it was so promising last June, why could it not have been used to avoid the fear generated in the farming community, and the consequential loses to European trade (Stakeholders meeting 15 March 2002) by the media announcements of a suspected case of FMD in Hawnby in February 2002? Why have I not received a reply from Fred Landeg to my email, copied below? Please note that I am not criticising Fred Landeg for not replying to my message, but an under-funded and under-resourced system for not being able to fast-track a potentially useful new technology.
to: Fred Landeg
from: Mary Marshall
date: 27 February 2002
Suspected FMD-infected sheep in Hawnby, near Thirsk
Were the two sheep with mouth lesions tested before they were slaughtered using one or more of the new rapid diagnostic devices?
- The Pirbright / Swedish penside dip stick, which I understand has been used in the field during the 2001 outbreak
- The Tetracore Real-Time PCR on a smartcycler platform, which uses a specific primer probe to test for all 7 serotypes of FMD RNA, using mucuous samples, obtained by non-invasive procedures. Since dried reagents are used, no refrigeration is required, shelf life is long, and testing can be conducted outside of a lab, with results obtained within 2 hours. I understand that field testing in South America has been successfully completed and a paper has been peer reviewed and accepted for publication.
If an initial penside or mobile test was in fact carried out and the results were negative, further tests to confirm the negative results would of course be understandable. However, if this is the case, the initial results should be announced publicly to ease farmers' fears while the further lab tests, which can last several days, are being undertaken.
You will recall that at a Stakeholders meeting in November, I asked the Minister, Elliott Morley, whether one or more of these devices could be used routinely for monitoring and surveillance in the aftermath of FMD, especially for sheep where clinical diagnosis is not reliable.
British Llama and Alpaca Association
With regard to the Tetracore Real-Time PCR on a Smartcycler platform, to whom and when has this been demonstrated in the UK? I have heard so many differing reports. In a letter to the Veterinary Record on 6 October 2001, "Evaluation of a portable, real-time' PCR machine for FMD diagnosis", Alex Donaldson, et al, reports poor results, sating that "The reagents used in the assay were recommended by the manufacturer of the instrument". Later in the letter, "In attempts to improve the performance of the portable instrument, the reagents normally employed in our laboratory-based system were used in the instrument instead of the reagents recommended by the manufacturer. This was found to raise the diagnostic sensitivity of the portable machine to very close to that of the laboratory-based system." I witnessed a demonstration of this device at a meeting in November of the US Animal Health Association in Pennsylvania, and asked one of the developers whether a reagent had been provided or recommended by them. His reply was "no"; the appropriate reagent is supplied by the laboratory using the device. If this device was acceptable to Pirbright using their own reagent, what is its status now with regard to possible use?
Following my message of 27 February to Fred Landeg, on 28 February I sent to him the following message:
Further to my email of yesterday, you may be interested in the following (which I believe is part of a submission to the Royal Society Inquiry):
RAPID ON-SITE DETECTION OF FOOT AND MOUTH DISEASE VIRUS
Those puzzled and frustrated by the seeming lack of technological breakthroughs in control of foot and mouth and other foreign animal diseases should not be discouraged by recent lacklustre results reported for foot and mouth virus detection by real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) on a portable device (Donaldson et al Vet Rec 149 6 Oct 2001). This technology is now so well developed for high-consequence pathogen detection in defence, public health, law enforcement and agriculture in the United States (U.S.) that it is clear that those indifferent results can be explained entirely by the inappropriate choice of reagents and assay conditions. Furthermore, the caveats raised about potential limitations on applicability of the technology have not been found valid in experienced hands.
To understand the current frontiers of high-consequence pathogen detection elsewhere in the world, British government officials, livestock owners, practitioners and other interested parties should know the pedigree of this technology. It was essentially driven by the needs of the U. S. Defense Department, to detect biological threat agents quickly, in the field and with such a high level of confidence that there would be time to take protective measures (Higgins et al., 1999). To solve these problems, the Defense Department initiated revolutionary approaches to pathogen detection. One of these is the portable real-time PCR machine, which is now widely deployed.
The term "real-time" refers to the ability to monitor all stages of the reaction and identification as it proceeds, rather than to have to wait until the end for a result. "Portable" means that the device is taken to the site of the problem and operated there by the military - it is not confined to a central laboratory staffed by trained microbiologists.
Recently, as U. S. public health and law enforcement officials have come to realize that these same biological threat agents might be employed against civilian populations, they too have had to confront the problem of detecting high-consequence pathogens, outside the comfort of a reference laboratory and have again adopted portable real-time PCR devices as a way to provide fast, accurate answers wherever the pathogen might be present.
Veterinary medicine is also deeply involved in high-consequence pathogen detection - for control of infectious diseases moving swiftly through international boundaries and perhaps also, deliberately introduced diseases for the purpose of overwhelming conventional defences. Hence, the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has begun to develop a uniform system of animal, plant and zoonotic pathogen detection, identification and epidemic response. There are two components:
1. Rapid on-site tests that detect and identify important animal and plant pathogens.
2. An Internet-based information technology programme that incorporates these assays into an integrated management scheme to focus assets for rapid outbreak control in real time.
This system is fully compatible with that used by U. S. military, public health and law enforcement agencies, which obviously maximises its utility. This is not a new test system that is an incremental improvement over the past - it is a fundamentally new way to control highly-infectious disease epidemics.
The rapid detection and identification tests are performed with standardized reagents designed to work on a common device platform for all assays. Several devices are already commercially available and others are close to production. The most popular devices are made by Idaho Technology Inc. (www.idahotech.com) and Cepheid Inc. (www.cepheid.com). These devices both work in the same way. Future models from these and other manufacturers are expected to become smaller, quicker and cheaper to purchase and operate - hand held machines are already available. The devices cost between #15,000 and#30,000.
Real-time PCR assays are performed on a small, portable computer controlled device operating on mains or car battery power. The device is specifically designed to be taken to or near the site of the problem and used there by a person with limited training. An integral global positioning system can identify the exact location of the device. A wireless Internet connection provides world-wide communication, so that distant experts can "look over the shoulder" of the person conducting the assay, to offer advice, expert analysis and validation of assay performance as it proceeds. Instead of taking the sample to the expert, at a distant site for analysis, the sample is analysed on the spot and the data sent electronically to the expert and back to the operator with whatever advice is needed. This immediately saves one or two or more days. If time is gained, multiple alternate courses of action become possible for those charged with taking action to control the disease outbreak. This is the true significance of the technology (Breeze, 2001).
Sample preparation is minimal and can be automated. The process of preparation inactivates infectious agents, including foot and mouth disease virus. All necessary reagents are contained in a single-assay sealed tube in a freeze-dried form stable under a wide range of environmental conditions for over a year. Reagents are produced to ISO 9000 standards and weekly updates of quality control and quality assurance data for each batch are available over the Internet. Sample collection, preparation and the assay itself can be completed in 90 minutes after arriving on site, but positive results can be obtained much earlier.
Real-time PCR assays for foot and mouth disease and classical swine fever virus detection and identification were described and demonstrated by scientists from the USDA at the 105th Annual Meeting of the U.S. Animal Health Association/44th Annual meeting of the American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians held in November 2001 in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Members of the FMD Forum were in the audience and had the opportunity to see the research results and watch assays being conducted.
Briefly, data were presented to show that the real-time PCR assay for foot and mouth disease virus detects all seven FMD virus serotypes and differentiates this virus from other RNA viruses of animals and man and specifically from three viruses that cause almost identical diseases in livestock, namely swine vesicular disease, vesicular exanthema and vesicular stomatitis viruses. The assay detects as few as 10 virus particles, well below the number required to establish an infection and is more sensitive than cell culture. Significantly, this has been found to be a preclinical test: in experimentally infected cattle, sheep and pigs, foot and mouth virus can be detected 24 to 48 hours before the onset of clinical signs of disease. A single assay costs about #5.
The classical swine fever real time PCR assay detects all the strains of this virus and differentiates these from similar viruses, such as border disease and bovine viral diarrhoea viruses. This test is also more sensitive than cell culture and has again been found to be preclinical - detecting infected animals several days before the onset of clinical signs.
Once a positive identification is made on-site, the information technology part of the system allows those responsible to take immediate action in cooperation with other parties who must become involved. Since the device location is known by global positioning, officials can immediately see electronically a map of the area around the infection, predict where infection may have been spread by recent wind, map this spread according to geography and topography, identify quarantine zones, set up control measures (such as road blocks) and identify farms at risk where animals should be tested immediately to detect any infection. The system is designed to coordinate Government officials, academia and private industry, cooperatively, to focus all available resources on immediately stamping out such an introduction through quick, targeted and science-based interventions.
Consequentially, in future, the British people - once aware that such amazing and proven science is available from our friends across the water - will not tolerate the little Englander attitude and medieval approach, adopted for the control of this outbreak
1. Breeze, R.G. Foot and mouth disease preparedness -USA. Promed-mail, 20010520.0981, May 20, 2001.
2. Donaldson, A. L., Hearps, A., and Alexandersen, S. Evaluation of a portable, "real-time" PCR machine for FMD diagnosis, Veterinary Record,149, 430, 2001.
3. Higgins, J.A., Ibrahim, M.S., Knauert, F.K., Ludwig, G.V., Kijek, T.M., Ezzell, J.W., Courtney, B.C., and Henchal, E.A.. Sensitive and rapid identification of biological threat agents. In "Food and Agricultural Security: Guarding against natural threats and terrorist attacks affecting health, national food supplies and agricultural economics". Editors Frazier, T.W. and Richardson, D.C. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 894, 130-148, 1999.
Database of test results must be available for scientifically based crisis management and for research. Pirbright was under contract to DEFRA, and sent all test results to DEFRA. Pirbright staff were not able to interrogate the DEFRA database, nor were other scientists.
Management of database of tests results:
- results should automatically be sent to the owner.
- results should be available for analysis by an independent group of veterinary epidemiologists.
The scientific community should be more widely consulted.
Database of livestock holdings must be improved at all levels.
Holdings were sometimes mis-identified as being in the North Sea (as stated by Neil Thornton at a stakeholders meeting in September).
Farm boundaries must be correctly identified. Many holdings were wrongly identified as contiguous to an IP. Shared fence lines, and topography of land, and, above all, local knowledge of vets and farmers, should be taken into consideration in risk assessments.
Much more authority must be given to informed local opinion from agricultural stakeholders and veterinary stakeholders (private and state), rather than to central policy control.
Slaughter should not be automatic even in the case of an IP or a DC.
See Stephen Smith QC's letter to me dated 4 July 2001 about the lessons to be learned from the "Grunty" case (DEFRA v UPTON):
The Upton reasoning may certainly have an application even as regards an IP case. Effectively, the Upton home farm was two separate units: the house and driveway which the owner had used; and the fields which she had not entered during the relevant time. The Judge's ruling recognises this. Therefore, it can be argued, the Ministry should consider before slaughtering all animals on an infected premises whether there has indeed been exposure of animals on all parts of the farm in question to the virus found in animals on one or more other parts. Whether, in other words, the farm is in reality one 'premises' or more than one 'premises'.
In most cases the answer is likely to be that there has been exposure, because the same person is likely to have tended all animals wherever they are on the farm, or driven his vehicles etc. over the whole farm. But where this has not happened, and especially where the animals in question do not pose a risk to livestock on adjoining premises, the proportionate approach indicated by the Upton case should be one of monitoring and testing, rather than immediate slaughter.
In this context I should point out that the second of the Donaldson articles referred to above contains a useful table of distances over which the current virus is believed capable of travelling by air, depending on the number and species of animals infected. That table is extremely useful in indicating the extent of the danger to animals on neighbouring holdings.
The Upton case was a DC case. For the reasons given in the Upton case, an assessment should be made as to whether there has truly been contact between the IP and the animals on the vulnerable premises, and whether the animals in question, even if all infected, would pose a risk to any livestock on neighbouring holdings. If the answer to the latter question is no, monitoring and testing of the vulnerable livestock is an option, especially if the answer to the former question is doubtful. It is only if the answer to both questions is yes that the Ministry should decide to slaughter.
For completeness, I should make clear that the Judge in the Upton case did not find the Ministry's development of the general DC policy at a premises level unlawful. What concerned him was the rigid application of that policy.
The Donaldson articles are of great significance to CP culls. The premise behind a CP cull is that the virus has been transmitted through the air from one holding to the next (a case where the biosecurity is poor and there is a risk that animals will have poked their noses at each other through a hedge/fence is not a CP case but a DC case). The Donaldson articles suggest that the virus is likely to be excreted in sufficient quantities to infect animals on neighbouring holdings only in rare cases. If there are not infected animals in sufficient numbers on the IP, the Minister cannot reasonably believe that the animals on the CP have been exposed to the virus.
If the Minister has any doubt, the proportionate response again should be monitoring and testing.
The judgments of Mitting, J., on which the Ministry has been wont to place reliance are flawed because the Donaldson articles were not drawn to the Judge's attention (even though the Ministry had had those articles in draft for some time before the hearings in those cases). Nor did the Judge have the benefit of evidence from an expert such as Dr. Sumption, Professors Elwood and Duffus, or Dr. Kitching. Indeed I do not believe that any independent scientific evidence was put before the Court on those occasions.
3 km culls
There is no power in the 1981 Act to create a firebreak'. The Ministry has power to slaughter only when it (reasonably) believes that the animal in question has been exposed to the fmd infection. The Ministry cannot slaughter just because it considers it would be in the best interests of animals further away if an animal-free corridor were created around an IP.
Although not directly relevant to the Upton case, this issue was raised in our skeleton argument but was not commented on by the Ministry. If there had been power to create a firebreak, one would have expected that the Ministry would have been keen to draw our attention to it.
The Donaldson articles do not suggest that the UK virus is likely to have been transmitted in sufficient quantities up to 3 km through the air, or anything like that distance, from infected animals (I have no idea what, if any, studies have been carried out into the transmission via the funeral pyres which were commonplace at the beginning of the outbreak).
Welfare culls are likely to take place at the request of the owner of the animals in question, and so do not raise the issue of the extent of the slaughter power in Schedule 3 para. 3 of the 1981 Act.
Powers of entry
Finally, to revert to the Upton case, there is a very real doubt about the lawfulness of the Ministry's apparent wish to enter Mrs. Upton's premises against her wish to cull her animals, without a court order. Issues arise under the Criminal Law Act 1977 (which prohibits forcible entry without a court order), and under Articles 6 and 8, and Article 1 of Protocol 1, of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Broadly speaking, the Convention provisions - which are now of direct effect throughout the UK - entitle a citizen threatened with an infringement of his private life or the destruction of his possessions by the State to a hearing before a judge in open court where the lawfulness and proportionality of the State's wishes can be ruled on after all the relevant evidence is heard, before the State's wishes are carried out (if indeed they ever are).
Differentiation between species should be made in control measures.
Species with low susceptibility and low carrier status should be given the option of quarantine rather than automatic slaughter.
From the submission to the Royal Society Inquiry on behalf of South American Camelids (SACs) - the full submission is available on request:
2001 UK FMD epidemic and SACs
The exact numbers of SACs slaughtered between the outbreak of the disease in February and the last camelid affected in June is not known, but we are aware of over 300 alpacas and more than 25 llamas being slaughtered in this period.
DEFRA has confirmed to us in a meeting held at Page Street on 26 October 2001 that no FMD tests on camelids (for antibodies or for virus) had been positive during the 2001 epidemic. They were not aware of any samples of blood or tissue taken from infected farms being lost or mislaid.
A BLAA member in Lancashire had his large herd of alpacas slaughtered as he had infected sheep co-habiting on the same premises (case number 1178 of 10 April). We have been told that blood and tissue samples taken from the alpacas were included in samples sent to be tested at Pirbright. We conclude that, in spite of co-habiting with infected sheep, the alpacas did not become infected.
Dr Paul Kitching, formerly of the World Reference Laboratory at Pirbright, has informed us that of the "many thousands" of samples sent from Bolivia and Peru for testing, "the only positives we found were because they had been vaccinated." He continued that, in his opinion, "it is very very unlikely that any of your animals [SACs in the UK] would become infected and seroconvert."
Camelids and foot and mouth disease
"Camelids are marginally susceptible to FMD".
The Office International des Epizooties (OIE) states, in its etiology of FMD, that "Camelidae (camels, dromedaries, llamas, vicunas) have low susceptibility".
Throughout the 2001 epidemic MAFF and now DEFRA appears to have based its treatment of SACs almost exclusively on this OIE statement, despite research papers being brought to its attention that, we believe, demonstrate that SACs have a very high resistance to the disease itself and a very low risk of spreading the disease either to other SACs or to other susceptible livestock.
There is clearly a need for DEFRA, even in an emergency situation, to be able to assess the risks involved and formulate a reasoned and proportionate response to that situation.
It was the failure to respond in such a manner to letters sent to them in the early stages of the epidemic that necessitated the association and the pressure group CAUSAL to invite solicitors Burges Salmon to review the evidence available. In the light of this, Burges Salmon wrote to MAFF (as it then was) to ask for a review of the treatment of camelids in infected areas that took due regard of what scientists see as an inbuilt resistance to FMD.
This letter was sent to Mr Jim Scudamore, the Chief Veterinary Officer of MAFF on 25 May 2001. Apart from standard acknowledgements, no reasoned reply was received until 15 November, although on 6 July camelids were excluded from being slaughtered on contiguous premises subject to certain conditions including adequate biosecurity. The letter of 25 May 2001 and the reply dated 15 November 2001 are reproduced as appendices SAC-3 a and b.
It is clear from this exchange of letters that strikingly different interpretations are being made from a single set of data.
The situation appears to us to be that SACs:
have low susceptibility to FMD (references OIE as above; paper by NA Fondevila and others, see appendix SAC-2 document B-1)
have a low probability of becoming infected even when kept in farm conditions in close proximity to other susceptible stock (references Michael David and others SAC-2 B-5; Bianco Viera and others SAC-2 reference 8) (note that BLAA advised its members at a very early stage of the epidemic to isolate camelids from other stock on their premises)
show mild signs of the disease when experimentally infected (reference Juan Luboth and others, SAC-2 B-2)
do not carry live virus after 14 days post infection. (reference NA Fondevila and others, SAC-2 B-1).
2-4) SACs are not carrier animals
A carrier animal is defined as one that carries live virus for 28 days or more. SACs have been shown to be virus free 14 days after infection, and so these animals should not be regarded as potential carriers.
This view has recently been supported by a paper from Dr Paul Kitching on Identification of Sub-clinically Infected and Carrier Animals and Differentiation from Vaccinated Animals (soon to be published by OIE). In this paper, Dr Kitching writes "The duration of the carrier state depends on the species and individual: the African buffalo may carry virus for over five years, cattle for over three years, sheep for up to nine months, goats and wild ruminants for shorter periods of time, and for South American camelids no carrier state exists."
One area where further research would be desirable is on the SAC's ability to amplify the virus, to excrete the virus and therefore infect other susceptible livestock, as stated in the letter from Fred Landeg of DEFRA to Burges Salmon dated 15 November (appendix SAC-3b)
DEFRA's opinion must be balanced against the opinion of other experts such as the paper by Bianco Viera and others (SAC-2 reference 8) that concludes "Experimental results obtained in our laboratory (unpublished) confirm the low susceptibility of llamas to infection through contact such that their risk, from an epidemiological point of view in the plan for control and eradication of foot and mouth disease, is low or null."
It should be emphasised that controlled experiments in laboratory conditions place host and target animals in unnaturally close proximity with each other, a condition not normal for UK llama and alpaca owners. We acknowledge that guard llamas are by definition in close proximity to the sheep or goat herds that they guard, and are therefore an exception. Some llamas kept on farm zoos might also be an exception.
We accept that during any epidemic it is necessary to take all reasonable steps to contain and eradicate the disease. In our opinion, where there is adequate biosecurity, the automatic slaughter of SACs on infected or contiguous premises or where there has been a dangerous contact situation is inappropriate.
This position was summarised in the submission on our behalf by Burges Salmon to MAFF dated 25 May 2001 (appendix SAC-3a). We continue to believe that the recommendations in that letter, and particularly the approach to quarantine set out in point 20 of that submission, remains the most appropriate practice for minimising risk from and to SACs.
In a short article in March 2001 - Foot and Mouth Disease: Are Llamas and Alpacas at Risk? (SAC-2 B-4) - Professor David Anderson (Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences of the College of Veterinary Medicine at Ohio State University) commented on the studies by Fondevila and Lubroth (referred to above) as follows: "Based on these studies, a policy of livestock separation (to diminish high concentration, cohabitation exposure risk) and quarantine of all camelids with no movement or visitation would seem reasonable and prudent."
Based on the articles and papers that we have seen we still consider the proposals suggested in the submission of 25 May to be relevant, proportionate and safe. We consider that the response from DEFRA dated 15 November errs disproportionately on what they perceive to be the only safe option. We do not consider that DEFRA has been willing to carry out an objective risk assessment regarding SACs.
We invite the Royal Society to endorse our suggestions as set out in the submission of 25 May to the Chief Veterinary Officer.
3a - Diagnosis in SACs
3-1) Diagnosis should be made by veterinarians, and their clinical opinion backed up by laboratory tests.
Field test equipment (as soon as proven), should be progressively introduced as an aid to diagnosis
3-2) The national diagnostic service should be under the control of an organisation independent of DEFRA or any successor body.
3-3) Testing. The current laboratory tests appear to be as valid for SACs as for other susceptible animals. However, during the outbreak, these tests were not consistently undertaken, and often animals were slaughtered on clinical diagnosis alone. These tests, which rely on central laboratory analysis, are too slow to support decision making in the field.
There have been many reports of newer methods of testing for FMDV, including kits that can be used on or near the premises involved to give a speedy and reliable diagnosis. Had these procedures been proven their use could have assisted in making decisions in the field.
When validation tests of the new rapid diagnostic devices have been completed, we would welcome their immediate use alongside the recognized tests.
Please note that methods involving taking mucous samples rather than blood samples will be less stressful for most SACs.
It should have been possible to field test this approach during the later stages of the epidemic, backed up by traditional laboratory tests. As far as we are aware this has not been done, although we understand that the Pirbright "dip stick" may have been used in the field. We also understand that the Tetracore Smartcycler was demonstrated to MAFF in March; a detailed report on this should be published along with an assessment of what further validation is needed. In our view it is essential that such techniques are fully tested and approved for use in the UK and EU as soon as practical.
3-4) Clinical signs of disease
Murray Fowler, in his book Medicine and Surgery of SACs (the relevant extract is quoted from SAC-2 ref 12, page 154), states "Experimentally infected lamoids in Peru developed fever, up to 40˚C. This was the first sign noted in all affected animals. They became totally anorectic approximately 24 hours following inoculation and chose to lie down most of the time. Vesicle locations and progress of the lesions followed patterns shown in cattle and sheep".
Most SACs owned by people from a non-farming background are kept as pets, for trekking or for fibre production. They are valuable animals and will be tended on a daily basis. Any non-normal behaviour - such as that outlined by Fowler - should therefore be quickly spotted and veterinary advice sought.
Compared with cattle and swine, signs of disease in camelids have been reported as being relatively mild, but they are none the less present. The association took care in the early stages of the outbreak to advise members of the signs of disease to look out for and the action to be taken. This information was sent to all current members, members whose subscriptions had lapsed within the past two years and was posted on the association's web site and on the web site of CAUSAL.
3c Treatment of SACs on infected premises
These proposals are presented with the objective of preserving the lives of SACs wherever practical without increasing the risk of infection to neighbouring susceptible stock.
Uninfected SACs should be quarantined on farm, kept under close observation and tested for FMD virus if deemed necessary by the DVM.
Possibly infected SACs. For SACs, any clinical signs that suggest the presence of FMD should result in the immediate quarantine of the animals concerned followed by tests for the virus. In the unlikely event of a positive result, a mini risk assessment should be carried out by the DVM to determine whether isolation in a bio-secure environment is a safe and realistic alternative to slaughter. The other SACs in the herd should be kept isolated in quarantine and observed daily for any clinical signs. It may be appropriate for these animals to be tested for virus as well as those SACs showing clinical signs.
Factors to be taken into account in the mini risk assessment are:
The feasibility and owner's willingness and ability to provide a bio-secure environment (see appendixSAC-4 for a description of what this could involve); Ability to separate farm duties so that people who tend the SACs do not also tend other stock; Proximity of other non infected susceptible livestock, 200 metres clearance round isolation and quarantine areas is suggested by DEFRA in the exemption of SACs from slaughter in contiguous premises cases.
Affected SACs should be kept in bio-secure isolation and the tests repeated at 14 day intervals. When found to be free of virus, the animal should be kept in isolation for a further period of 21 days prior to being returned to the herd.
4 - Prevention
4-1) - Preventative vaccination
If control of any future outbreak is to involve vaccination then we advocate the optional inclusion of SACs in the vaccination programme, at the discretion of the owner and in consultation with veterinary authorities. Some further testing of vaccinated SACs should be undertaken to ensure that excretion of virus (if any) by vaccinated SACs is minimal and below any level that could pose a threat to other species.
It should be noted that as far as we are aware camelids are excluded from vaccination programmes to control localised outbreaks of FMD in other species in Peru.
As SACs are not carriers and do not enter the food chain, vaccinated SACs should not be slaughtered.
4-2) - Import controls
The current procedures are considered acceptable.
SACs are tested for antibodies prior to importation, and any with positive results are excluded from the import. We understand that tests are available to distinguish between antibodies resulting from vaccination and those from natural infection.
There is a case for permitting the import of SACs with exceptionally fine fibre and conformation that have been vaccinated. The association in conjunction with experts from Canada has developed a system for identifying such animals.
4-3) - Control if an outbreak occurs
Apart from vaccination, the key to control is the immediate suspension of movements of susceptible animals until the outbreak is brought under control. We accept that SACs should initially be included in such movement restrictions.
Once the initial outbreak has been contained movements of SACs should be permitted in a controlled environment.
Recommendations have consistently been made to DEFRA to treat SACs as a separate group of animals for movement licences. Up to and including the autumn movement controls they have been grouped with sheep and goats, both species being highly susceptible to FMD, proven carriers and seroconverters. The only similarity is that signs of disease may be mild. At a meeting with us on 7 December, DEFRA agreed to treat SACs as a separate category, see 4-5.4 below.
Message 1 from Mr Paul Rogers-
SACs appear from the literature to be relatively resistant to FMD. It may be that they show very fleeting clinical signs of disease and that this is difficult to find and that lesions are unusually transient. However, there is general agreement that they shed a very low viral load for a very short period and that those infected can be identified through serology and by viral study techniques. New technology may make it possible to rapidly identify any risk.
With this background in mind, it would seem that trekking with llamas provides increased risk in the spread of FMD only to the extent that would be seen by pony trekking, rambling groups or other groups moving on foot through the countryside. It could be argued that, as mechanical vectors of disease, dogs probably present a greater threat as their movement is more difficult to control.
Providing that good biosecurity is practised on the holding of origin and that agreed routes can be followed, it is my opinion that trekking with llamas would present little additional risk.
As far as contamination of environment from faeces or urine, in areas of risk, treatment with a portable spray of disinfectant would remove the remote chance of viral contamination. It is unlikely that the faecal/urine route presents a great threat as the major route of transmission is via aerosol. Faeces and urine could provide moist organic conditions to help virus survive but trekking would not occur in areas of high risk i.e. within a 10 km radius of an IP. I do not think this presents any greater risk than pony trekking.
Message 2 from Mr Neil Frame -
During FMD outbreak in UK, all transmission from animals was by aerosol, and never for more than a distance of 25 metres. No transmission was animal to animal.
90% of spread was by wheels or people's feet, therefore spread was caused by people and lack of disinfection.
If llamas are banned from trekking, then all dogs, ponies and walkers would also have to be banned. Would need a "no feet" rule. Dogs are more of a risk than llamas because they are often under less control.
Llama trekking poses no risk as the llamas will not be stressed or in close contact with other livestock. If there is a worry about urine and faeces, a disinfectant spray can be used. Spot checks could be done on the llamas for movement purposes, following whatever regime is in place for farm animals.
5 - Ethical views
5-1) In our opinion it is totally unacceptable to slaughter animals when there are proven alternatives. We believe that the weight of scientific evidence as outlined above is that slaughter is unnecessary in SACs.
5-2) We would also draw to the attention of the Royal Society the apparent willingness of the Government to pay compensation to owners not just of infected stock but also stock considered potentially at risk (through "dangerous contact", on contiguous premises or within exclusion zones) while totally ignoring the added cost incurred by many farmers (particularly those with valuable breeding stock and/or rare breeds) who have taken great care to provide biosecure environments, firstly to minimise the risk of their animals being infected and secondly to provide protection to neighbouring farms.
5-3) We advocate that it should be possible for such farmers to obtain a grant towards the additional costs involved.
8 - Summary & Research Recommendations
We conclude that the weight of scientific evidence is that SACs have a low risk of becoming infected with the Foot and Mouth disease in normal UK environments and that they present a nil risk of spreading the disease.
SACs on infected premises or considered to be at risk should be quarantined. Culling should only be considered where it is impossible to provide adequate biosecurity and the SACs cannot be separated from co-habitation with susceptible livestock.
During the period of an epidemic, SACs justify a set of movement controls proportionate with the relative risks involved.
Recommendations for further research on SACs:
1 Into their ability to amplify the virus and excrete it in sufficient volume to be at risk of infection other susceptible domestic species.
2 Into their susceptibility to becoming infected in environments in which they are normally kept in the UK
3 Re vaccination- to confirm our current view that any excretion of virus by vaccinated camelids does not result in the infection of other stock and that there is no risk of virus being carried in faeces etc.
4 Into the reliability of rapid diagnostic test procedures
5 Into the susceptibility and carrier status of SACs relating to the bluetongue virus. According to Alex Donaldson, BBC1 11.30 9th Dec 2001, bluetongue disease is on the periphery of Europe. Current evidence suggests that SACs have low, if any, susceptibility
Animal Health Bill
See letter from Stephen Smith QC to Mary Critchley, 5 November 2001, attached as an electronic file, and with extracts below:
The new power to enter premises and slaughter without consent
14. From my perspective, this is perhaps the most deeply worrying of all the new provisions, when seen against the background of what happened in Rosemary Upton's case. Clause 7 of the Bill enables a Ministry official (termed an "inspector") to gain forcible entry onto premises to inspect and if necessary slaughter animals, so long as he has obtained a warrant to do so from a magistrate; a magistrate may grant such a warrant if he or she feels that there are reasonable grounds for the inspector to enter the premises, admission has been refused or a refusal is to be expected, and notice of an intention to seek a warrant has been given to the occupier (it seems that this latter condition may be by-passed in cases of urgency).
15. There is no scope in this proposal for the fair and public hearing which Article 6(1) of the Convention requires. The application to the magistrate will be made by the inspector in the absence of the farmer, and will not be a public hearing.
16. Such a warrant can be expected to be enforced immediately by the inspector backed up by the police/army, and the farmer's animals will be destroyed. There will be no practical scope for the farmer to point out to a Judge that the Ministry may be mistaken (as it undoubtedly had been in Rosemary Upton's case), still less that the Minister may be proposing to exercise his/her powers in a way which is not proportionate or is incompatible with any other Convention right.
17. In short, the inspector and the magistrate will have determined the civil rights and obligations of the farmer without any fair or public hearing, with no legal or practicable possibility of an appeal, in a way which cannot be described as anything other than final. To cap it all, the farmer will commit an offence if he refuses admission to his premises to an inspector without lawful authority or excuse (proof of which is to lie on him, not the Minister).
18. Thus, instead of being able to present his case to a Judge at a fair and public hearing, the farmer's premises will have been entered forcibly, his animals will have been destroyed, and he will likely be a criminal.
19. I find it very difficult to see how this proposed process can properly be said to be "compatible with the Convention rights". It is well settled that the phrase "the determination of his civil rights and obligations" in Article 6(1) should receive "a broad interpretation ... The decision need not formally be a decision on the rights. Article 6 will still apply if the effect of the decision is directly to affect civil rights and obligations" (per Lord Clyde in R (Alconbury) v. Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions a decision of the House of lords in its judicial capacity given earlier this year.)
20. It may be that the Ministry considers that the continuing ability to seek judicial review of any decision to enter or to invoke the new entry power or to slaughter will provide sufficient judicial control for the purposes of Article 6. That, however, is quite impracticable. The experience of the Rosemary Upton case and other cases is that the Ministry acts with great speed and its attendance at premises with police and army back-up can be very intimidating. If it obtains the power to override a refusal of consent to enter and/or a power to arrest the farmer in the process of effecting forcible entry, the chances of a lawyer being instructed to make an application for an interim injunction are practically nil. I note that there is no proposal in the Bill that the Minister should give to the farmer, say, 24 hours' notice of an intention to effect forcible entry to slaughter animals, so as to enable the farmer to take advice and, if necessary, apply for permission to move for judicial review and seek an interim injunction.
The new general power to slaughter
21. Clause 1(1) of the Bill gives the Minister an additional power to slaughter:
"any animals the Minister thinks should be slaughtered with a view to preventing the spread of foot-and-mouth disease"
22. It is proposed that this additional power should fit in immediately after the other three circumstances in which the Minister already has power under the Animal Health Act 1981 to direct a slaughter, viz. where an animal is infected, where an animal has in some way been in contact with the infection (whether through other animals or inanimate objects) or where in the belief of the Minister an animal has been exposed to the infection.
23. Thus 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.
The Slaughter of Commander Benson's alpacas
Hele Wood, Clayhanger, Tiverton, Devon DEFRA IP ref: FMD 2001/1737, 13 June 2001 at 21.00hrs. (We use DEFRA to include its predecessor MAFF.)
We draw your attention to the case of Commander Bensons' alpacas that were slaughtered on 13th June 2001. We submit in a confidential addendum three reports on this case. The details in each report vary to some extent.
This case occurred at the end of the Devon outbreak, only three infected premises are recorded on the DEFRA web site after this case.
Brief summary of events:
On 11th June cattle on a neighbouring farm (farm A) showed clinical signs of FMD and were slaughtered. Sheep owned by the same farmer were blood tested prior to slaughter. The test results received later were negative. Sheep on a farm to the north (farm B) up wind of farm A and with a common fence line were tested and 80% found positive. They were slaughtered.
On 12th June Ministry team came to inspect Commander Benson's cattle and some cattle not owned by him that he had at grass. His own cattle were clinically free of FMD symptoms, but three of those at grass were seen to be drooling. These cattle belonged to Rosemary Upton, whose Land Agent, Tom Griffith-Jones came to help the Ministry vet destroy these three by lethal injection, the job being finished at 0100 on the morning of 13 June. The remaining cattle were destroyed later in the morning of 13 June by MAFF/DEFRA slaughtermen.
Later the same day, 13 June, the Ministry arrived to destroy Commander Benson's own stock - 20 cattle, 12 sheep and 5 goats and 6 alpacas- although there was no evidence of FMD. In fact, the two Ministry vets (TVIs: a British vet, Chris Price, and a vet from New Zealand, Jody Spence) had been told by the Exeter office to slaughter all susceptible animals on the farm, including the 6 alpacas. There were no clinical signs of disease in any of the animals.
Commander Benson agreed to the slaughter of his cattle, sheep and goats, but asked that the alpacas be allowed to remain. This was on the basis that:
1. The alpacas were in a paddock isolated from all other animals, and had had no contact with them.
2. He had the circular from the British Llama and Alpaca Association advising of camelids' low susceptibility*.
3. All susceptible animals within 1.5 miles had already been slaughtered.
4. The alpacas could be kept indoors, and easily monitored.
5. It would be expensive to cull the alpacas
* Both the veterinary and legal departments of DEFRA had full information on the low susceptibility of camelids to becoming infected with FMD including the very low risk of them passing infection onto other species.
The owner took legal advice and the legal department of DEFRA at Page Street was involved. They advised DEFRA, Devon, that the slaughter of the alpacas should be delayed until the following day so as to give the owner a chance to mount a legal challenge. This advice was not followed.
The Ministry vets insisted that the alpacas had to be slaughtered. The land agent acting for Commander Benson was removed by police from the farm. The pressure applied was causing Commander Benson and his terminally ill wife such distress that he eventually gave in and agreed to the slaughter of the alpacas which was carried out at about 21.30.
Lessons to be Learned from this incident
This was clearly a highly distressing event for all of those involved. It is not surprising that accounts differ (see the reports in the confidential appendix).
It is therefore essential that where animals of high value and low susceptibility are involved, the parties concerned should prepare a case history immediately after the event. The details should either be agreed by all parties, or if not agreed, areas of disagreement should be identified for future investigation.
There is no need to rush into slaughtering animals that could be quarantined with no additional risk of spread of the disease.
Commander Benson did not argue against the slaughter of his cattle or sheep. He had made the Ministry vets aware that alpacas have low susceptibility, and Page Street (Landeg and Patel) was already in receipt of a letter from Burges Salmon solicitors detailing the veterinary evidence in support of quarantine rather than slaughter.
Furthermore, MAFF/DEFRA's method of control appears to have been based on a belief that this strain of FMD was virulent and airborne, despite papers to the contrary which they had in their possession (Alex Donaldson et al). Spread must therefore have been by mechanical vectors.
7 The fact that there were no longer any susceptible livestock left alive near the alpacas should be considered a pragmatic justification for quarantine.
7 The channels of communication between divisions within DEFRA HQ and between DEFRA HQ and the regional offices should be improved.
7 Care and consideration must be given to human welfare as well as to animal welfare.
List of attached electronic files:
BLAA - submission future of stakeholders meetings - M Marshall - 070302
BLAA - submission GruntyrevdSkel
BLAA - submission StephenSmithQC - Grunty-letter
BLAA - submission StephenSmithQC - Animal Health Bill
BLAA - submission JR LLI InquirySkeleton