'For evil to triumph all that is required is that good men do nothing'
Mrs. E. Jane. M. Barribal & Associates.
2 - Howpark Farm Cottages - Grantshouse - Duns - Berwickshire - TD11 3RP
Tel: 01361 850282 or 01361-850680
Scottish Charity No: SCO32660
Open Secrets________________________________25th May 2002
Some very interesting points have been raised in various quarters during the last 24 hours and Farmtalking has received some interesting phone calls and messages during the past week.
There are overriding themes to them that 'stick out a mile!' screaming at me with bells, sirens and flashing lights! They are that 'knowledge is power' and leads to a desire to hold on to it by any means, while ignorance is 'fear' and leads to an inability to cope. My conclusion is that to keep things 'secret' can be extremely damaging, destructive and serves no good purpose.
Farmtalking was started and continues, in the firm belief that 'a problem shared can be a problem solved'. That does not mean that I know or have all the answers but it does mean that 'experts' in various fields have been willing to share their experience and knowledge with me and I've been able to pass it on.
To illustrate this point, during the past week, I have spoken to farmers who are very fearful over the fate of their healthy animals as a result of TB testing. Their lack of knowledge with regard to the reasons why it's done and the procedure involved, was abysmal and so, I regret to admit, was mine! Their efforts to obtain information from DEFRA were met with a high handed, it's 'none of your business' attitude, resulting in a loss of temper on both sides and increased fear for the farmers involved.
So what did I do about it? First of all, I checked the DEFRA website - and by the way, here's a 'tip' for you, it's often far easier to search google.com for the info you want rather than the DEFRA website - I've found it usually takes me straight to the info I want from DEFRA! - I found a somewhat complicated info page on 'procedure' with arrows sending you to other pages to follow the next step and a slightly better doc to explain 'Dealing with TB in your herd'.
I also telephoned the Divisional Veterinary Manager (DVM) at the Animal Health office (AHO) concerned. He seemed wary and naturally, defensive of his staff, but was polite and helpful and I managed to glean a little more info which I had not found on the DEFRA website.
I then spoke to one of the Veterinary Officers (VO's) involved in the case. Much more defensive at first, he told me that farmers were only given information on a 'need to know' and 'one to one' basis. Astonishingly, he went on to tell me the vets themselves couldn't easily interpret the vast amount of procedural instructions they had and frequently consulted with colleagues and other AHO's in order to decide what to do! As far as he was aware there was no printed leaflet for farmers concerning procedure although 'Dealing with TB in your herd' was available, if they asked for it!
The information I gleaned was passed on to the farmers concerned and I am continuing to try to obtain better info for them. I would hope DEFRA choose to send a copy to all farmers but I'm told an economy drive is underway and so it may be prohibited. A tragedy for those who do not yet have access to the Internet or if they do, don't have time or inclination to look at it!
The fact that as many as 50% of 'reacting' animals, slaughtered on test results, are found not to be infected on post mortem, has to be a cause for concern and the fact that research into a vaccine for bovine TB and a blood test to detect actual infection, has been and still is, dragging on slowly for many years and I'm told may not be achieved for another ten, is appalling.
It seems the policy, method and procedure for control of bovine TB has been in existence for over four decades and everyone has been happy with the status quo. The problem is that TB is on the increase, testing of herds is behind schedule due to FMD, and although movements were restricted by DEFRA for herds not yet tested in known infected areas, farmers have been allowed to restock from other areas that may well have become infected during the past year, thus risking the spread of disease to previously uninfected areas.
The introduction of SI843 under a Scrapie/BSE testing umbrella has made farmers fearful that it will be employed with regard to TB testing. To my knowledge, one has already been threatened with a #5,000 fine if he demanded a re-test on his 'inconclusive reactors' (IR's) and refused to have them slaughtered as ordered. Of course he capitulated, only to find they were uninfected on post mortem results.
Before you start screaming in horror with 'that that was only one incident and doesn't and shouldn't normally happen' well OK, that may be true, but nevertheless, experience has taught me that one 'incident' frequently leads to another and can easily become the norm. It should be 'nipped in the bud' pretty quickly, as it certainly illustrates a lack of communication skills and proper training. Perhaps any DVM's reading this will take that fact on board right now, take the initiative and ensure the vets under their supervision are suitably instructed and trained for their job.
What an unholy mess it all is, but what can we do about it? Surely one of the most constructive and helpful means is by continuing to seek and sharing our knowledge while abhorring 'secrecy'.
Or is 'secrecy' becoming the new all-powerful God?
Peter Ainsworth has told us that, "The Statutory Instrument (SI) on TSE's is 89 pages long. It contains 104 paragraphs and 9 schedules. To judge whether it adds to existing law or, as the Government says, consolidates present regulations, one needs to compare the text to those of 13 separate SIs that are being replaced and to look at relevant EU regulations. Peers and MP's have found it very difficult to obtain copies."
Why is that I wonder - what is there to hide?
Some have suggested Sir Robert May and his cohorts, Professors King and Anderson and Sir John Krebs, know something we don't? Or have a 'plan' for the future they are keeping to themselves and presume we are not mature enough, or mentally capable of understanding the reasoning for it, to be willing to share it with us? Are we back to the 'secret' decisions of the Bilderburger Group here? - Or are they simply hanging on to their personal positions, power and control, by whatever means they can with little regard to the suffering they might cause in the process?
These suggestions may be true but I doubt them and remember that there is little difference between one human being and another. We all make grand plans for the future only to find them frequently dashed by circumstances beyond our control, an excuse often used as 'cover' for our own failures!
It is natural that those in power will have doubts about the correctness and validity of their decisions and though well aware of their mistakes, rarely admit them or try to right the wrongs. The fear of losing their position over-rides altruism and almost immediately they 'pass the buck' and try to lay the blame for their mistakes at the door of the anonymous 'others'.
How many times have we heard the Government spokesmen say, 'we acted of the advice of experts'? The fact that they were the wrong 'experts' or that other 'experts' in the same field who offered help were ignored, is carefully avoided.
The exalted position of Chief Scientist is to be respected but knowing his specialty is 'surface materials' does not inspire confidence in the pronouncements he makes regarding animal health and welfare. Nor do the statements made by The Minister, Lord Whitty or Eliott Morely in Government. They continue to completely ignore the fact that the science on which they've based the SI843, is unproven and continue to 'wriggle' around FMD related questions in the House, avoiding straight answers to justify their position and frequently laying blame at the door of innocent farmers. To admit the Government's inadequacies is unthinkable.
This justification remains the priority of our Government in many, if not all departments, those responsible for Agriculture and Transport being prime examples. We may understand the reasons for it but do not appreciate the results and are convinced there is a better way forward.
It's sad, ironic and unfortunate that on the day the Prime Minister hailed and promoted much needed Science and research - no doubt more for economic reasons than that the truth be sought - is the day we learn of extreme cruelty to marmoset monkeys at a Cambridge Scientific establishment.
If he and his Ministers find it necessary to deride the opinions of mere mortals such as myself, I take heart. If nothing else, it proves we have 'rattled their cage' and made them feel insecure. There is always the chance that their insecurity will lead them to change the policies and laws we dislike in order to maintain their position. Their reasons for doing so matter little so long as they do it! There can also be no doubt that their abandonment of the promised Open Government, failure to instigate a public inquiry for FMD and very obvious manipulation of their own inquiries as well as the 'dumbing down' of County Inquiries has, and is, doing them and our democracy, no good at all.
Much as I try to encourage people to 'move on' after FMD and 'get a life' as they say, I also realize it is not so easy when former victims come up against barriers such as those experienced this week in relation to TB testing and concerns over the new SI legislation. For myself, and them, it is impossible to draw a line and move on but I strongly believe that by continuing to share our knowledge, secrets are 'opened' and problems are solved and that has to be a step in the right direction however small it seems to be at times. Nevertheless, here's hoping for a 'giant leap' in the near future!
Jane Barribal - May -2002