While few would argue against the need to remove cows with TB from a herd, the unreliability of the present skin test is throwing up many false positives - shown to be false only after slaughter. The interpretation of results in specific cases and the need for recognition that the specificity and sensitivity of diagnostic tests can vary in field situations needs to be recognised and addressed. This is the recent story of one family who questioned the initial test result. By what legislation were their 2 reactor cows to be slaughtered, they wanted to know ; they were told - quite wrongly - that the legislation was the 2002 Animal Health Act.
TB reactors at Eatons Farm - latest
They politely asked for a second test to confirm the result of June 30 2003 and offered to pay for this. What they got were tactics from DEFRA and Trading Standards reminsicent of the bullying, ignorance and bluff that shocked so many during the FMD crisis in 2001.
Jan 5 2006 ~ Council officials were forced to apply for a warrant
to take away two cattle from a farm in Tibberton in 2003 after owner Nicola Morris refused permission for the Government to destroy them. She lost the case. More
January 4 2006 ~ "That's why the vet came out, to put pressure on me to agree to it ...
Nicola Morris - The line we used then was that the test was not very accurate ... They believe if a record was kept of TB outbreaks on closed herds it might ... more
Nov 24 2004 ~ Ben Bradshaw says "In 2002–03 we spent nearly £74 million on the bovine tuberculosis (TB) Five Point Plan.." - but there is to be no second test for the Morris family
See Hansard ".... We are keen to improve diagnosis of the disease in both cattle and badgers and have commissioned the Veterinary Laboratories Agency to carry out two research projects, at a total estimated cost of over £950,000. ..."
Meanwhile, the Morris family are still in dispute with DEFRA over their two cows. Having had several reactor cows that tested negative after slaughter in the past, the Morris' concern can be understood. During FMD the family battled to save their herd and learned the hard way that officials prefer to follow rigid "regulations" rather than consider the facts of each case. They are not permitted a second test to verify the Ministry's skin test on two cows who reacted on June 30th. They cannot understand why they should not be allowed to pay for a more reliable test themselves, nor why they never get an answer when they ask what legislation gives DEFRA the right to slaughter their cows. Meanwhile, their local DEFRA office has written to say that another warrant has been applied for.
Nov 19 ~ "This is actually far worse than Foot and Mouth"
The stalemate situation is taking its toll on the Morris family. Having seen DEFRA's arguments - which they have found most unimpressive - the Morris family are taking a breathing space, mainly because of the emotional price they are having to pay over the whole issue. James, who is 8, seeing and sharing the family distress, is saying with classic childish logic, that it is "all his fault" . There is likely to be a radio documentary on the subject of the Morris family's fight but at present the emotional impact, on the children particularly, is making the parents wary of inflaming the situation. But Mrs Morris tells us that there are now many champions in the wings waiting to give support. She is bemused by the way the officials have either no idea of the anguish their manner is creating - or they simply don't care.
Nov 11 - 18 ~ "There has got to be a better test"
(Thursday Nov 13 2003 ) DEFRA are leaning heavily in the Morris family to decide by "the end of play" today (Defra's unfortunate phrase) whether they will agree to have their two reactor cows privately killed. Mrs Morris has again "for the umpteenth time" she says patiently, asked under what legislation DEFRA can insist on the compulsory slaughter of these animals. She and her husband - experienced dairy farmers - do not believe them to be infected and their vet agrees that there seem to be no signs at all. All they want is another test to validate the skin test results from June 30. "There simply has to be a better test," she says. "If we can diagnose TB in humans without slaughtering them first why can we not use some of the human health methods for veterinary problems? It doesn't make sense."
Nov 11 - 18 ~"Kill your cows privately," DEFRA suggests
The story of the Morris reactor cows continues. Following the delisting of DEFRA's application for a warrant because their skelton arguments were not ready, they have now suggested to the Morris family that they have their two reactor cows (no sign of any clinical symptoms for months since the test) privately slaughtered.
Nov 11 - 18 ~ DEFRA application for warrant withdrawn
The latest news on the situation concerning the two reactor cows in Worcestershire; the Clerk of the Court has informed the Morris family that DEFRA's application for a warrant has been delisted today. An appointment for a court "slot" on Friday 31 October had already been postponed by DEFRA so that they could get together their arguments. Apparently their skeleton argument is still "not ready" yet.
The process of obtaining warrants against farmers was set up to facilitate action considered "urgent".
Nov 3 - 10 ~ It appears that the Animal Health Act was cited to the Morris family as the legal basis for the killing of their cows.
See below As we understand it (and we wait to be corrected- please email) the use of the Animal Health Act to insist on slaughter in this case is not permissable under the terms of the act. Although full blown Mycobacterium bovis TB, i.e. clinical signs and lesions of TB in cattle, is notifiable under the Public Health Control of Disease Act 1984, merely to have an animal that reacts to the skin test is not.
If DEFRA intends to use the AHA (about which there was so much concern shown at the time) to enforce the killing of these two cows- who reacted to the skin test at least three months ago and have still not yet shown any clinical symptoms - then they must surely use parliament to add to its terms. See AHA 2002, Part 1 section 2 (3) No order may be made under this section unless a draft of the order has been laid before Parliament and approved by a resolution of each House." ).
Quite apart from the undesirability of the lack of proper veterinary input in the situation here - the slaughter of reactors, while part of a widespread system of control, is not, as we understand it, legally binding.
The bovine TB skin test is notoriously unreliable. Since DEFRA announced a year ago that a two year voluntary pilot project would be launched in an area that includes Worcestershire "to assess the effectiveness of using the gamma interferon blood test as an adjunct test " in certain herds under restrictions" ..." it would seem reasonable for the Morris' two cows to be allowed to take that test. We continue to await developments.
Nov 3 - 10 ~ Legal intimidation, use of the Animal "Health" Bill to force slaughter
Nicola Morris' two reactor cows have been in question for several months - and because she and her husband questioned the test (see below) the rest of the herd has been refused testing. Nor has she been permitted a second test - even at her own expense. As she says, she would not oppose the putting down of the cows if she thought they were really infected - but she simply does not believe they are. She and her husband Andy merely want to have the positive result confirmed by another test such as the gamma interferon test (see below). There seemed to be no movement on this issue - until an article about it appeared in a Birmingham newspaper (no link available), when Trading Standards officers were sent the very next day to slaughter the cows - and cited the Animal Health Act for their legal justification.
As in the panicky days of FMD it is the blank faced tone of these officials this is so frightening and so very "unEnglish". No lessons learned there, it appears.
The Morris' local magistrate, having listened to Nicola's concerns, did not grant DEFRA a warrant and it now seems as though another legal wrangle - of which we thought we had seen the last - is set for next Thursday. More news as we receive it. It is difficult to believe that DEFRA can really be aware of the full facts or they would surely allow the two cows to be tested again at the Morris' expense and save the taxpayer the cost of a court hearing.
Nov 3 - 10 ~ Nicola Morris threatened with arrest over TB slaughter resistance
"What appalls me is the vet dealing with the case has not asked to look at the animals once. We got our own vet to do a detailed examination and she said there was nothing that leads her to believe the animals are suffering from TB"
From the This is Worcester website TB Showdown at Eatons Farm
"Nicola and Andy Morris defied a Government culling squad this morning and ordered officials off their land. ... Government officials have ordered two cows from the 60-strong herd to be killed because a test shows they are harbouring the TB virus. But Mr and Mrs Morris claim the cows have shown no sign of disease. ...... Nicola - who famously resisted a Defra slaughter during the foot-and-mouth crisis - would not budge. They were cautioned and told they would be reported to the police for obstruction. The officials are now seeking a warrant for their arrest."It will be remembered that Mrs Morris presented a careful and reasoned analysis at the time of the FMD inquiry which, although it was never hostile or condemning, may have been very unwelcome to DEFRA and the government.
Extract: "Of the premises culled as a precaution (pre-emptive cull) less than 10 % were tested. DEFRA are of the opinion that a significant number of these farms were incubating the disease at slaughter; this is unlikely. For 3 reasons ...(Read more)