To: Mary C
Sent: Thursday, August 30, 2001 1:02 PM
Subject: Re: National Petition Launch
Thanks for letting me know about this petition.
I have enormous sympathy with those who are calling for a full public enquiry - the enquiries announced look too much like a "divide and conquer" and "whitewash" agenda.
However, the history of UK livestock public enquiries does not bode well. The enquiry into the FMD epidemic of 1967 was excellent (for its era) but at the end of the day, the lessons it drew attention to were ignored.
The BSE enquiry is another case in point. It drew attention to some outrageous problems with the organisational culture of MAFF and the State Veterinary Service, and political undermining of the democratic process, but yet we saw these problems repeated in last year's swine fever outbreaks and in this year's FMD epidemic.
Calls for a public enquiry reflect the huge outrage that many of us feel at the way events have been handled. However, I suggest that they are missing the target...
Public enquiries take too long and cost too much - by the time they report, public and political interest have moved on, so the status quo tends to get preserved.
We know what the problems are - what we need is ACTION to change things - to get some transformation of a "sick" culture in part of the civil service, and to get some transformation of the UK political process. Another thing too - some major changes in veterinary education!
Please take a look at my essay on the FMD crisis:
and let's start demanding "action" instead of yet more "discussion"!
Many thanks for the letter you sent in reply to Mary Critchleys e-mail, with attachments, demanding and supporting a national petition for a public enquiry.
In a lot of ways I agree with you...why demand a public enquiry when history has proven that the conclusions and actions demanded are ignored? In many ways they are a waste of time and money.
Yes!..We should demand action...NOW! Why haven't we learned from history..and vowed never to repeat the mistakes of the past ?
It all mainly boils down to human beings not being infallible. We all make mistakes. We all forget the lessons we should have learned during the many hours we spent in front of our history teacher.
A public enquiry demands answers and evidence from those who would rather choose not to give evidence. It can uncover lies and deceit. It may prove that the government in power has been telling 'porkies' (lies) and may be trying to deceive its public ( Oh God forbid such a thing!).
A public enquiry gives a record for history and future generations (and researchers) to come with what may be deemed an 'auditable trail'. A means by which we can back track ..who.. or whom did what wrong. This would not need be a means to prove guilt - but a means to ask the questions ...'how can we prevent this from ever happening again?'. 'How can we learn from this disaster? What improvements can we make for the future so that we can learn from this?'
In the absence of following the methods of those protesting at the G8 summit...We cannot afford to be locked up for throwing petrol bombs at authority - the Police etc. We have jobs to hold down. We would love to protest violently. My wife and I took flour and eggs (not free range but battery eggs) to throw at those who were going to storm Mossburn Animal Sanctuary - but were extremely hesitant to get into trouble..We were prepared to if need be... to stop pets being murdered.
We must applaud the efforts of Jane Barribal, Mary Critchley and Julian Thurgood and others who have proven their 'terrier like' persistence and perseverance in recognizing that a wrong is taking place in our England. They have created electronic web sites which are a rallying call for all those individuals with a conscience... Their web sites have proven ...that there was, and is, an alternative to mass slaughter...that is a humane vaccination of our herds and flocks. If this had been carried out we would not have had to endure the heartache and misery that our government has forced us all to put up with. The UK general public will not tolerate any more pyres and mass burials - with all the environmental and public health risks!
We have had enough of witnessing mountains of sheep and lambs being bulldozed into lorries just for the sake of appeasing the agribusiness barons and their National Farmers Union cohorts and protecting an export industry worth fourpence (in the grand scheme of things) which no humane UK citizen wants any way.
A public enquiry is a must. Vaccination is also the only way forward to protect what livestock we have left.
Thank you for your kind reply to Mary's e-mail.
With best wishes..
Jan & Cher Fialkowski. alpha-house.com
PS: I also agree that vets who are killing healthy animals for 'firebreak' reasons need their arses kicked...you didn't quite say that - but that is how I read your 'major changes in veterinary education' to be.
Dear Jan & Cher,
Thanks for your email.
I hope you did not think I was suggesting violent protest when I called for "action" rather than discussion.
As you point out, leaving an audit trail and historical documentation of events is very important, this is why I have worked all hours to build up on-line free-access archives at www.pighealth.com of the swine fever mess of last year and the FMD catastrophes of this year. I get messages from veterinary schools all over the world (and even in the UK) saying how valuable students and their teachers find these archives - they are used to set analytic project work. For example - "What control strategies where used, how effective where they. how might the situation have been handled differently?".
I also know from my mailbox that vets and regulators all over the world are learning from the well-chronicled mistakes of the UK.
As you point out, we have all worked hard to publicise and document what has happened and this has produced significant results in raising awareness. I suggest that we could now usefully move on from that "documentation and protest" phase into a "reconstruction" phase.
The real questions now I believe, are not "What went wrong?", or the even more hopeless "Admit you were wrong!", but...
How can hearts and minds be transformed in the political and civil service arenas?
How can farming organisations like the NFU learn to stop shooting themselves in the foot with short-sighted agendas?
How can veterinary schools be made more responsive to the needs of society in the 21st century?
I would like to suggest that the only quick way forward is to get into constructive dialogue with these groups and with the power-bases that shape them.
I believe that a public enquiry will delay action and only fuel even more defensiveness - more "getting stuck" for our nation. it will also generate so much information that people will be overwhelmed and turn off to it - as they have after past public enquiries.
I hope the above commments are in some small way helpful to your own thinking and deciding on "the next step".