National FMD News Archive

All the new FMD stories from Ananova Foot and mouth noticeboard electronic telegraph

NEWS STORY ARCHIVE 2001 - 2002

Farmers call for legal regulation of supermarkets
icWales

Sheila Coleman
FARMERS have given the thumbs down to supermarkets and want to see their activities regulated by law.
These are the findings of a survey carried out by the Farmers' Union of Wales, which reveals the depth of feeling towards the retail giants.
It found that not only do farmers overwhelmingly think that they have a poor relationship with supermarkets, but the vast majority (94pc) of those questioned also want the Government to introduce laws to control the supermarkets.
Also when asked whether super-markets had a good working relation-ship with farmers, 89pc of farmers said they did not with 6pc saying yes.
Jan 9

Farmers' Blockade to go ahead
The Scotsman

Militant farmers tonight agreed to push ahead with protests against Tesco after the supermarket giant failed to agree to high level talks over produce costs. Farmers For Action (FFA) said it would push ahead with protests against the chain but said Tesco could stop the action at any stage by agreeing to the meeting. But with Tesco refusing to back down to the demand, action seems likely and it is thought blockades of key Tesco depots could be on the cards. A total of 28 farmers from across Britain met at a secret location tonight in Wiltshire to discuss their plans which could lead to the biggest mass action since the fuel protests of September 2000.
Protests against Tesco would go ahead "imminently" but chairman David Handley said FFA would give the chain a few more days to agree to their request for a meeting with chief executive Sir Terry Leahy.
"The meeting went very well indeed," Mr Handley said. "It was a unanimous decision that action will be taken but we're going to speak to Tesco to say that we're prepared to give them a little longer to consider their decision."
Mr Handley said FFA has been in touch with similar groups in France who have previously campaigned against McDonald's.
Jan 9

Whitehall machine attacked
ICWales

Jan 8 2002 Sheila Coleman
THE Government's handling of the foot-and-mouth crisis has been condemned by farmers. A survey carried out by the Farmers' Union of Wales found great dissatisfaction among farmers with the Whitehall machine, while the National Assembly came in for praise. The survey asked farmers to rate the performance of the Ministry of Agriculture/Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs during the epidemic, and also for their views on the National Assembly's handling of farming matters in general. Seventy-five per cent of those questioned believed that Maff/Defra had performed badly during the crisis, with 59pc of those describing the Whitehall agencies as being poor - or worse. Only 18pc believed that Maff/Defra had carried out their duties adequately, while 6.5pc rated them as good or better. ........33pc believed the National Assembly was under performing, and a large majority would like to see the body's powers increased. The survey found that 77pc were in favour of the Assembly being given greater responsibility for farming, with only 11pc against. .........
It is unfortunate that during the foot-and-mouth epidemic, the National Assembly could only act as agents to carry out Defra's policies. "The FUW has called for more agricultural powers to be devolved to the Assembly. We believe that if the Assembly had the same powers as the Scottish Parliament to deal with animal health matters, the foot-and-mouth out-break in Wales would have been handled much more efficiently and would have been over much more quickly."
Jan 8

Farmer vows rave rage after police refuse to deal with intruders
ICWales

Jan 8 2002
A FARMER has said he is prepared to use violence to stop people breaking into his property and holding rave parties. David Benton issued the warning after claiming police stood by and did nothing as almost 100 ravers took over a turkey shed at his Lincolnshire home and held a loud New Year's Eve party. Mr Benton, 44, said, "I will defend my property, and I will use violence if I have to if this happens again. The police have already said they will arrest me if I do." Mr Benton, who runs a farm in the small hamlet of Moorby, was shocked to see 10-ton lorries crashing through a gate on his farm delivering disco equipment and alcohol on New Year's Eve. "They set up their disco equipment and were having a party," he said. "I called the police and when they arrived they said they could not do anything because it could cause a public order incident. "It was like being a farmer in Zimbabwe - the police stood out-side the gate while inside people were smashing up my property and they were doing nothing about it." He estimates the rave goers caused more than £600 damage when they broke down a gate and tore open the doors to the turkey shed. They had even brought a portable generator to power lights and music equipment. Mr Benton said he had tried contacting his local area police commander to complain about the attitude and lack of action from police who arrived at the farm. He said, "Every time I try and ring they refuse to put me through. Now I am going to get in touch with my MP and see if he can do something. ..................

Farmer faces 700 'fridge mountain' bill
The Times

BY SIMON DE BRUXELLES
A FARMER is facing a bill of up to £700 to remove more than 50 old refrigerators that were dumped on his farm after new European Union environmental rules made it difficult to dispose of them legally. Regulations that came into force on New Year's Day require ozone-depleting CFC gases to be removed from the foam insulation layer of fridges and freezers before disposal. Previously, CFCs had to be removed only from the cooling systems. Tens of thousands of old fridges will need to be stored until they can be disposed of safely because Britain does not have any plants able to remove the CFCs from foam. The nearest ones that can are in Germany and Holland. Bob Partridge, from Tregolds, near Padstow, Cornwall, has discovered that 50 fridges were dumped on his land at St Merryn at some time in the last fortnight. It is the worst case of fly-tipping he has experienced in the 20 years he has owned the land. He fears it could pose a danger to his 300 cattle, and blames the new European law for the fridge "mountain". .....
Jan 8

Farmers to blockade Tesco over milk price
The Times

BY VALERIE ELLIOTT, COUNTRYSIDE EDITOR
POLICE chiefs have been told by militant farmers that they intend to step up protests against the supermarket giant Tesco from tonight unless the company agrees to negotiate over farm prices. The grassroots Farmers For Action plans to target distribution depots and numerous stores. A hardcore of about 500 farmers aim to disrupt supplies of staple goods such as milk, bread, meat, fresh vegetables, fruit and flowers.
Most action is expected to take place in Cheshire, Northamptonshire, South Yorkshire, Hampshire and South Wales where Tesco's main regional depots are based. A letter has been sent to selected chief constables giving a warning about possible blockades.
The FFA fears that Tesco, largest of the high street food retailers with 700 stores and £1 billion a year profit in 2001, is attempting to force down milk prices by up to 2p from April 1. A Tesco spokesman denied the charge last night, but made clear that the company could not control the leading dairies which set the price.
The leading high street stores are paying 20p a litre for milk (about 10p a pint), which is still below the average 22.5p it costs to produce a litre. The FFA, however, is convinced that Tesco is keen to see prices down to 18p a litre in the spring and fears that if it achieves that price other supermarkets will lower prices.
................. Tesco said farmers in its producers' clubs could attend meetings to air grievances. The FFA had targeted depots before Christmas and "we cannot talk to people who are taking unreasonable direct action". The Times has learnt that ministers are to be advised to create an independent prices watchdog to monitor relations between farmers and supermarkets. The move is among key proposals from the Government's policy commission on food and farming, due to report to Tony Blair this month. Supermarket chiefs are enraged by the proposal, however, and the issue has been forced back on the agenda of today's commission meeting.
Jan 8

Protest uses cows to air beef with state
Japan Times

KUMAMOTO (Kyodo) Authorities impounded six cows emblazoned with spray-painted protest slogans Monday after the animals were found wandering around Kumamoto Castle park here.
A cow spray-painted with the slogan "NO BSE" wanders around Kumamoto Castle park. Investigators believe the cows were sprayed with slogans such as "Koizumi Help" and "It's safe" as an act of protest over the central government's handling of the recent outbreak of mad cow disease.
Their owner is now being sought.
A passerby spotted four of the cows at around 5:10 a.m. on the castle's grounds and reported the discovery to police, sources said. Investigators found two more cows in the ensuing search -- one of which was nearby and the other a couple of kilometers away from the site. The cows were tame and no one was hurt in the incident.
Of the six cows, two were dairy animals and the rest beef cows known as red cows. The animals are currently being kept at an agricultural research center in the prefecture.
According to police, the abandonment of a cow can net the offender a fine of up to 300,000 yen under the animal protection law.
Jan 8

Farmer puts his energy into grass-growing
Ananova

A farmer is diversifying part of his business from growing traditional British crops and vegetables to planting a versatile grass. Brian Rutterford, from Lakenheath, Suffolk, is growing elephant grass on 10% of his 2,000 acre farm. He says the reduction in prices for crops, and an expanding market for the 12ft high plant, also known as miscanthus, have prompted the change. Mr Rutterford, a farmer for 30 years, said: "With the economics of modern food farming these days there is just no money in it.
Jan 8

Farmers want say over South Downs
Farmers Weekly

By Isabel Davies
FARMERS affected by plans to designate the South Downs as a national park want adequate representation on a future national park authority. Producers are expected to turn out in force for a meeting organised by the Countryside Agency in Lewes on Wednesday (9 January). Farmers will insist that they are fully represented on any future national park authority, according to the National Farmers' Union. They will also say they want to reinforce the point that the landscape of the downs will only be maintained by a profitable agriculture. Shaun Leavey, NFU south east regional director, said the government must remember that farmers manage 80% of the landscape in question. "Farmers have serious reservations about any national park authority on which they do not have adequate representation.
Jan 8

Don't plough to dodge law - Whitty
Farmers Weekly

FOOD and Farming Minister Lord Whitty has appealed for farmers not to plough up land to avoid new laws on uncultivated ground. Environmental assessments must be made before new land is brought into intensive agriculture under rules which come into force in February. The regulation will apply to unimproved grassland, heath, moorland, scrubland and wetlands. Lord Whitty said farmers could cause "irreversible environmental damage" if they ploughed previously uncultivated land to avoid the new laws. "Don't plough up your land and risk destroying valuable environmental habitats without considering the consequences," he said.
The minister said the introduction of Environmental Impact Assessment was a European requirement and the UK was not "gold-plating" regulations. "There is a clear public interest in safeguarding our most valuable and sensitive landscape and historic features and our wildlife habitats." A leaflet explaining the new rules will be sent to all farmers later this month. The laws will not be retrospective but do apply from 1 February.
Jan 8

New label rules to boost beef'
Farmers Weekly

By Adrienne Francis
BEEF industry leaders forecast that demand and prices for homebred cattle should improve as a result of labelling rules introduced last week. The country in which animals were born and raised must be named on meat packages under rules introduced on 1 January, 2002. The National Beef Association is anxious that enforcement authorities are quick to identify companies slow in meeting the new rules. Association chairman Robert Robinson said more home-killed beef should be available from 2003 if retailers act now. "Retailers should realise the best way to encourage British farmers is to make sure they are offered more for their product," he said. "This is more likely to happen if accurate country-of-origin labelling is introduced at speed."
Jan 8

Crunch time for gene crops
Farmers Weekly

By Adrienne Francis A BIOTECH company hopes to change opinion about genetically modified foods by improving the crunch in cornflakes, reports the Daily Telegraph. Monsanto will conduct a multi-million-pound research and breeding programme to create a strain of maize resistant to moisture, it says. Researches will try to discover plant genes producing high wax levels and transfer the quality into corn grown for breakfast cereals. UK development manager Colin Merritt said he hoped the research would show GM technology could produce "an obvious direct consumer benefit". But a spokesman for Friends of the Earth told the Telegraphthe research had a "fair claim to be the most pointless GM product yet".
Jan 8

Clone experts puzzled as Dolly grows old too soon
Telegraph

By David Derbyshire and Tom Peterkin (Filed: 05/01/2002)
DOLLY the sheep suffers from an unusual form of arthritis rarely found in ewes her age, raising concerns that cloning could trigger premature ageing.
Professor Ian Wilmut, the leader of the British team that created Dolly, said the ailment was likely to be linked to the cloning process and called for more research into the long-term health of clones. But he added that Dolly's pampered "celebrity" lifestyle, which has included overfeeding from visitors, might also have taken its toll.
Animal welfare campaigners said the discovery proved that cloning was cruel. Dolly, the first mammal cloned from a single cell from an adult animal, is enjoying an early retirement at the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh, where she was born in 1996.
Shortly before Christmas she became lame in the left hind leg. X-rays at the University of Edinburgh confirmed that she had arthritis in the hip and knee and she was given anti-inflammatory drugs to ease discomfort.
posted Jan 7

'No way of knowing' cause of Dolly's arthritis
Ananova

A scientist says there is no way of knowing if Dolly the Sheep's arthritis is linked to the cloning process Professor Ian Wilmut, who led the team which cloned the animal, said five-year-old Dolly has arthritis in her left hind leg at the hip and at the knee. Dolly is being "closely monitored" by veterinary staff at the Roslin Centre in Edinburgh. Professor Wilmut said: "We can't tell how it will develop but she is responding well to treatment with anti-inflammatory drugs." Asked whether the condition is because Dolly was cloned, he said: "There is no way of knowing if this is down to cloning or whether it is a coincidence. We will never know the answer to that question." "We are very disappointed and we will have to keep a careful eye on her. We will be monitoring her condition to see how it develops. In every other way, she is perfectly healthy and she has given birth to six healthy lambs." In May 1999, research suggested Dolly might be susceptible to premature ageing. The possibility that the world's most famous sheep might die early was raised after a study of her genetics.....
posted Jan 7

Mart is back but problems herald new year
The Darlington & Stockton Times

FARMERS taking sheep to Barnard Castle auction mart on Wednesday faced long delays, with freezing temperatures causing hold-ups in the cleansing of vehicles. Several described the situation as chaotic, with stock being taken into the mart but vehicles then unable to leave because pipes on a pressure washer, used to clean them, had frozen.
Mart chairman, Mr Len Cooper, confirmed there had been a problem with a pressure washer early on in the day. "It had not been used over the holiday period and the pipes were frozen solid," he said. "We rang around and got another to resolve the situation."
Mr Phil Barber, Barnard Castle NFU branch secretary, commenting on the lifting of foot-and-mouth restrictions in the county, had heard about the difficulties. "Now restrictions have been lifted, it will make moving stock about a lot easier," he said.
"However, because of continuing biosecurity, farmers are unable to put straw down in trailers, so even if they are washed out there could be potential welfare problems with stock sliding about when the water freezes.....
Jan 6

How Heath betrayed our fishermen
Sunday Telegraph

Christopher Booker's Notebook By Christopher Booker (Filed: 06/01/2002)
SECRET documents revealed last week under the 30-year rule complete the story of the most cynical smash-and-grab raid in the history of the European Union. It was this which led the prime minister of the day, Edward Heath, to give away the world's richest fishing waters - a national resource worth tens of billions of pounds - as the price he was prepared to pay to fulfil his dream of taking Britain into the Common Market in January 1973.
The new papers that have just been released, covering the year 1971, show that Heath's ministers did belatedly wake up to the catastrophe that this would prove for both fish stocks and Britain's fishing industry. But, when they realised that they had been outwitted, they were prepared to lie openly to Parliament to hide what they had done.
As was disclosed by the first batch of Foreign Office papers released last year, this strange story began in June 1970, when Britain, Ireland, Denmark and Norway were about to apply for membership of the Common Market.
Realising these four countries would control fishing waters containing more than 90 per cent of Europe's fish, the six original members and the European Commission laid an ambush by agreeing in principle, just hours before the applications arrived, that all fish in western European waters should be regarded as "a common European resource".
As the documents covering 1970 made clear, the Six knew that this was illegal. It was not authorised by the Treaty of Rome, but they gambled that, so long as the principle was agreed before the new countries applied for entry, the applicants would have to accept it as part of the acquis communautaire, the established body of Common Market law. The 1970 documents also revealed that the Heath government decided not to challenge the new "Common Fisheries Policy" for fear of prejudicing the negotiations.
...........................
Rippon returned to tell the Commons on December 13 "we retain full jurisdiction over the whole of our coastal waters up to 12 miles", which was wholly untrue. There would be, he said, "no change at all in the protection" afforded to British fishermen over the inshore waters from which they took 95 per cent of their catch. "I must emphasise that these are not just transitional arrangements which automatically lapse at the end of a fixed period." It is clear from the files that Rippon's officials knew that none of this was true. Harold Wilson, as leader of the opposition, protested it was wrong that the treaty should be signed before MPs had a chance to debate the fisheries deal. But MPs did not know how grievously they had been lied to because the relevant clauses of the treaty remained secret until after it was signed five weeks later, in January 1972. The consequences of Heath's surrender have become increasingly apparent, not least with the extension of the fisheries limits to 200 miles in 1976, under which British waters now contain more than two thirds of all Europe's fish. The CFP has resulted in a conservation catastrophe which has rapidly turned these waters into the desert that the Foreign Office privately foresaw in 1971. Under a regime which, for instance, permits French fishermen to catch 90 per cent of all cod in the English Channel, Britain's fishing industry, already savagely reduced on Brussels's orders, today faces terminal disaster. Ultimately there may have been no more damaging consequence to our national life of those events of 30 years ago than the way they engendered in politicians and civil servants that culture of deceit which has since become endemic throughout our government machine. What in 1971 was still shockingly new has now, in the age of Blair, become commonplace. Sir Edward, Knight of the Garter, has indeed left us a fearful legacy.
Jan 6

We still don't want euro, say Britons
Sunday Telegraph

By Joe Murphy, Political Editor
BRITONS are as determined as ever to keep the pound despite the fanfare launch of the euro five days ago, an exclusive opinion poll reveals today. It shows that 73 per cent of people oppose the single currency compared to 21 per cent who believe that Britain should join. The margin of more than three to one is one of the widest of any survey since the currency was first proposed. Most of those who say it is inevitable that Britain will join eventually believe this only because they think the Government will force them to do so against their will. Today's poll, the first test of public opinion since the New Year's Day launch of euro notes and coins, will alarm pro-euro campaigners. It is a severe blow to Tony Blair's hopes that opposition to the new currency would start to crumble once people saw it working successfully. It comes as tension increases between pro-euro ministers and Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, over whether a referendum on joining will take place during this parliament. ...........Dominic Cummings, the director of the No Campaign, said: "People think the euro is inevitable only because of their low regard for this lying Government who they think will force them in."
Jan 6

Opinion polls would appear to reflect the desired outcome of the pollsters.....See the very different conclusions in the Sunday Times

Majority of Britons warm to euro entry
Sunday Times

DAVID SMITH AND DAVID CRACKNELL
BRITISH voters are warming towards the euro, suggesting that the government could win a referendum on taking Britain into a single currency, a new poll shows. The survey, by YouGov Opinion Research, will be seized upon by the pro-euro lobby.
It comes as Charles Clarke, the Labour party chairman, gives a broad hint that the government will make its decision on euro entry this year. Clarke, in the strongest indication yet that the government is close to making up its mind on the issue, said in an interview with The Sunday Times that 2002 would be a "decisive year" for Britain's euro entry prospects. He also emphasised the "political imperative" of joining the single currency.
The poll shows for the first time that an overall majority of people (52%) would either join the euro immediately ( 18%) or when economic conditions are right (34%). Only 25% are hardline opponents of entry, saying Britain should never join.
Jan 6

And this one.....

Three out of four Britons say no to euro
Scotland on Sunday

BRIAN BRADY
bdbrady@scotlandonsunday.com TONY Blair's hopes of leading Britain into a quick vote on the future of the pound suffered an early blow last night as a new poll showed that 73% of voters had not been won over by the new European single currency.
The first test of public opinion since the euro was introduced on New Year's Day revealed voters did not believe Britain had missed out by failing to join the new currency in the first wave.
Scotland on Sunday has also learnt that ministers' preferred date for a euro referendum is next spring  which will clash with the Scottish parliament elections. The news comes as a new split emerged within the Cabinet when Charles Clarke, the Labour Party chairman, cast doubt on how important the Treasury's five key economic criteria for euro-entry were  increasing fears Britain could be bounced into entry against the advice of more cautious ministers.
The government has always said it would rigorously apply Chancellor Gordon Brown's tests on whether to adopt the euro but Clarke said that they were open to interpretation. He said: "Of course there will be room for argument, as with [any] tests, by definition. You can never get two economists to agree so there will always be plenty of arguments about how the tests are done."
His outburst is likely to enrage Brown, who has seen himself as the main judge of whether Britain will be economically ready to enter the single currency.
The poll of 1,000 people on January 1 and 2 was carried out by ICM on behalf of Business for Sterling. The results contradict the government's view that resistance to the single currency is 'soft' and can be won over by intensive campaigning.
Ministers from Blair downwards have been waging a concerted campaign to 'soften up' the public in preparation for an escalation in the argument over the future of sterling.
Anti-euro groups last night welcomed the results as proof Britain could prosper outside the new Euro-zone, while senior Tories claimed the government should stop trying to "bully" voters into accepting the landmark change. Dominic Cummings, of Business for Sterling, said: "People do not feel they have missed out and they know Britain can thrive outside the euro."................
Jan 6

Lib Dem Attacks Westminster Labour over Farming
The Scotsman

By Joe Quinn, Scottish Political Editor, PA News
A senior Holyrood Liberal Democrat today accused Labour politicians at Westminster of wanting to bring about farming job losses and a latter-day Highland "clearance."
The attack from George Lyon, Liberal Democrat spokesperson for agriculture, was unusual for the savagery displayed to a party with whom the Liberal Democrats are in coalition in Scotland.
Lib Dems, however, argued that the criticism was directed against Labour at Westminster, and was not to be taken as a criticism of policy within Scotland. Labour in Scotland declined to comment on the attack, but Scottish Nationalists claimed hillfarmers and crofters would not recognise Mr Lyon's "eulogy" to Ross Finnie, the Scottish Liberal Democrat rural development minister. Mr Lyon argued today that it was only Mr Finnie that "stood in the way" of Westminster destroying many of Scotland's rural communities. Mr Lyon claimed the Labour government at Westminster wanted to "get rid of" 50% of farmers and crofters, and slash vital support.
"It is quite clear to all farmers and crofters that the Labour agenda at Westminster is to get rid of half of farmers and crofters because they are unnecessary and unneeded," said Mr Lyon.
"Labour at Westminster have also made it crystal clear that they intend to slash vital support for our most fragile rural communities which would result in massive job losses and potentially a new Highland Clearance'."
He claimed that the English rural affairs department DEFRA was called "Deathra" in some crofting and farming communities and said: "Many crofting and farming leaders are now openly saying to me that it is only the Scottish Executive and Rural Affairs Minister, Ross Finnie, that stand between them and disaster."
But in the SNP's attack tonight, shadow agriculture minister Fergus Ewing said: "The deal struck by the Lib-Lab coalition for hillfarmers and crofters can more accurately be described in the words of Scottish Labour MP Calum MacDonald as a rotten deal."
Jan 5

Beckett calls for farm subsidy rethink
Telegraph

By Sarah Womack, Political Correspondent
) MARGARET BECKETT told farmers yesterday that in future they would need to justify the £3 billion a year that was spent on them by taxpayers.
Margaret Beckett at the at the Oxford Conference yesterday She told delegates at the Oxford Farming Conference that more subsidies must be directed towards environmental protection and the countryside rather than supporting food production.
But the message sparked Opposition accusations that what she said was meaningless until the European Common Agricultural Policy was reformed.
Mrs Beckett is also calling for CAP reform, but there is little sign that the European Union as a whole is prepared to do more than tinker with the present system.
The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary said: "Government has a responsibility to help the industry - but as a challenging partner in a vital business, not as a provider of endless subsidy."
"We should help the industry to do its business through our environmental and conservation agenda, not by subsidising the industry to produce goods not wanted in the marketplace."
She gave examples of farmers who were finding ways of creating new markets, by opening farm shops, diversification with tourism-related activities and setting up co-operatives.
Baroness Byford, the shadow Lords spokesman for agriculture, said Mrs Beckett had not spelt out how farmers should compete with cheaper, imported foods. Nor had she produced a solid framework for action as the industry awaited the policy commission report by Sir Don Curry. .....................
Jan 5

Market won't go for these little piggies
The Times

BY MARK COURT
INVESTORS in PPL Therapeutics, the Scottish biotechnology company that developed Dolly the cloned sheep, have endured a rollercoaster ride this week after the initial promise of its cloned piglets sparked controversy in the world's scientific community.
Yesterday PPL's shares, which trade on London's Stock Exchange, plunged 16 per cent after it emerged that Dolly had developed arthritis at the relatively young age of five, putting a question mark over the health of cloned livestock.
Jan 5

Britain's new role as force for good
The Times

BY TOM BALDWIN AND PHILIP WEBSTER
Blair speaks out while rows at home blight India mission
TONY BLAIR will today make a fresh attempt to put Britain at the heart of a new world order even as his latest diplomatic mission is threatened with being blown off course by rows over the euro and public services. In an important speech in Bangalore, India, the Prime Minister will proclaim that after losing an empire Britain has at last found a "modern foreign policy role" as a "force for good" in world affairs after the September 11 attacks.
Yesterday, however, he was left scrambling to salvage the battered credibility of the Government's euro policy following a senior Treasury aide's admission that the decision on British entry will be "political" rather than economic.
At the same time the Government continued to be battered on public services, with classroom assistants threatening strike action over pay, while an RMT dispute left up to 150,000 commuters shivering on platforms throughout southern England. .....................
Jan 5

MORLEY CONSULTS ON PLANS TO MODERNISE ANIMAL WELFARE
DEFRA Press Release

Plans to review, modernise and simplify outdated laws on animal welfare were unveiled today by Animal Welfare Minister Elliot Morley. Animal welfare groups, local authority representatives, courts, police and industry are to be consulted in what will be a far reaching review drawing together the environmental and industrial concerns of animal welfare.
DEFRA wants to hear views on the existing 11 Acts of Parliament governing the welfare of pets and farm animals. The Department is considering the possibility of a new animal welfare bill, pulling together current legislation and closing loopholes. Mr Morley said: "This is a broad and sensitive area of legislation on which we plan to consult widely and openly to make sure the law reflects the animal welfare needs of the 21st Century. This will be a lengthy process but we need to take our time and get it right so that any resulting changes stand the test of time. "The Protection of Animals Act dates back to 1911. It has been amended over the past 90 years, but its roots go back to the 19th Century. We need to have in place legislation that not only protects animals against physical abuse, but also recognises quality of life and physiological needs. "With the creation of DEFRA, most of the animal welfare laws are now under one roof. This provides a unique and timely opportunity to gather views, streamline and modernise outdated and unwieldy legislation.".........
Jan 2 posted Jan 5

Families worry about farming future
Farmers Weekly


THE government's commission on the future of farming, due to report at the end of this month, may be a damp squib, family farmers have warned. Michel Hart, chairman of the Small and Family Farms Alliance, said he was sceptical about what the commission's report would achieve.
"The terms of reference have tied it to the government's existing aims of Common Agricultural Policy reform and trade liberalisation," he said. "I think we needed a far more fundamental and radical rethink on the future direction of agriculture."
Jan 4

Beckett under fire at farm conference
Farmers'Weekly

By Tom Allen-Stevens
RURAL Affairs Secretary Margaret Beckett fielded 30 minutes of questions from delegates at the Oxford Farming Conference. Delgates criticised her department, saying it was uncommitted to farming, issued burdensome regulations and maintained poor import controls. "Does the government have a policy on what proportion of goods should be produced in the UK?" asked Hampshire farmer Mark MacClay. A member of the National Association of Young Farmers' Clubs said change was hard when the government continually moved the goal posts. "How can you convince us to work with you when your commitment to farming is laughable?" asked Hampshire farmer Hugh Oliver-Bellasis. "We have suffered a lack of agrimoney and import controls and increased legislation on diffuse pollution and ploughing of grassland." But Mrs Beckett aggressively rebutted the accusations. ..............
Jan 4

New crackdown on BSE and scrapie
Farmers Weekly

THE government is stepping up efforts to detect BSE and scrapie under new rules which came into effect on 1 January. Farmers are required to report casualty cattle and fallen stock between 24 and 30 months, which will then be tested.
The move is part of a European Union programme to test more cattle for BSE, sparked by increasing incidence of the disease on the Continent. More than 50,000 casualty cattle and fallen stock over 30 months have already been tested since July 2001.
Scrapie testing in sheep is also being stepped up. A sample of 3000 fallen sheep and 20,000 sheep slaughtered at abattoirs will be tested for the disease that scientists fear could be masking BSE. Ministers are concerned that scrapie in sheep is under-reported and are desperate to get more accurate estimates of incidence. The government is under pressure to improve surveillance after the fiasco in which scientists mistakenly tested cattle instead of sheep brains for BSE.
Jan 4

Minister issues subsidy warning to farmers
Ananova

Margaret Beckett is warning farmers the Government will not subsidise them to produce unwanted goods.
The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Minister says taxpayers expect better value for the billions of pounds spent each year on agriculture. She told the Oxford Farming Conference subsidies must be directed towards helping the environment and countryside. Mrs Beckett said: "Demands on the budget for agricultural support are coming under greater scrutiny across not just the EU, but the world. The pressure to reduce market-distorting subsidies is probably at an all-time high.
"And with the pressure to reduce subsidies and curtail budgets comes the pressure to identify our real priorities - to choose where the funding should go, when it cannot and will not go everywhere." Mrs Beckett added: "Government has a responsibility to help the industry - but as a challenging partner in a vital business, not as a provider of endless subsidy.
"Surely the Government should help the industry to do its business and pay for what the nation requires of the industry through our environmental and conservation agenda, not by subsidising the industry to produce goods not wanted in the marketplace."
Mrs Beckett said the key role of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) was to promote sustainable development.
She wants the industry to seek reform of the Common Agricultural Policy with a reduction in production-based support.
Defra claims resources could then be channelled into schemes for environmental improvement and the rural economy and give farmers new options for business development.
Jan 4

Beckett attacks farmers for complacency
The Times

BY VALERIE ELLIOTT, COUNTRYSIDE EDITOR
MARGARET BECKETT criticised farmers yesterday for their complacency in failing to take up free business advice offered by the Government in the wake of the foot-and-mouth epidemic. She said: "Some of them do not even think it is something worth doing. I find that quite staggering when we are all talking about the future of farming."
Mrs Beckett was also irritated by reports that some farmers were threatening to disrupt the food chain this spring, by boycotting sales to supermarkets in protest at what they see as poor prices.
She had no truck with such attitudes. "I am extremely sorry to hear that some farmers appear to want to attack the very people they need to rely on, the consumers," she said.
The Rural Affairs Secretary, in an interview with The Times before she addresses the Oxford Farming Conference today, said that after such "a terrible year" for farmers and rural communities, she expected them to take full advantages of the opportunities available to help them.

After three clear months without a new outbreak of foot-and-mouth, now was the right moment for farmers to think ahead and to prepare for the return to normal trading, including exporting to foreign markets. She said that farmers must become more aggressive and chase new customers if they were to survive. .....
Jan 4

Maize Crisis Worsens
Nairobi Nation

The maize glut in Kenya's bread basket districts worsened yesterday with the revelation that the National Cereals and Produce Board can only buy a small fraction of the maize farmers want to off-load.
The board can only buy 800,000 bags of maize while farmers are waiting to sell some five million bags. Farmers in Uasin Gishu, Pokot, Trans Nzoia and Marakwet districts complained that they had been unable to sell their maize to the various NCPB depots due to stringent conditions set by the board. Others complained that the price of between Sh990 and Sh1,060 being paid for a 90 kilogramme bag by the board, especially in North Rift and Nyanza, was too low compared to production costs.
The sale is crucial to the farmers especially at this time when they need to raise school fees, prepare their farms and buy inputs for the next planting season between March and April. Some of the conditions set by the board include limiting moisture content to less than 13.5 per cent, one per cent foreign matter, one per cent broken matter and two per cent rotten, diseased and discoloured grains. Last season, when the stringent conditions were not in play, rotten, diseased and discoloured grains of up to five per cent were acceptable.
An estimated Sh800 million has been set aside by the board to buy maize from farmers who have for the past two days been queuing at various depots. The stringent conditions set by the board have raised a hue and cry among the farmers and Members of Parliament who have seen the move as an attempt to lock out majority of the farmers.......
Jan 4

Crisis-hit farmers go on fact-finding trip to Ghana
This is Bradford

by Julia Murfin
MALHAMDALE farmers Chris and Jane Hall are going to Africa to visit other farmers experiencing difficult times. Christian Aid has arranged the trip to bring together farmers hit by foot and mouth in this country and those in the developing world who are also experiencing great hardship, albeit of a different nature. The project is the brainchild of Malham resident Judy Rogers, who is about to start work as Christian Aid's area co-ordinator. She said: "The idea is to share their experiences and see that other people in other parts of the world experience similar difficulties. They are not alone.
"The trip will mark the anniversary of the first outbreak of foot and mouth in a positive way - to try to bring out some insights about farmers are coping with the situation and to show that hopefully they are coming out the other end." Chris, a churchwarden at Kirkby Malham Parish Church, and Jane will fly to Ghana where they will visit rice farmer Meiri Seidu whose business has been decimated by cheap imports.
The couple, who farm at Airton, will share their experiences of a terrible year, during which they lost their 1,475 beef cattle and sheep in a contiguous cull. They will be accompanied by a crew from Yorkshire TV who will make a film to be shown on Calendar news to coincide with the anniversary of the first case of foot and mouth. .......................
. Clare Sheehy, of Christian Aid, explained: "Both rice farmer Meiri Seidu and Chris have suffered an economic bereavement resulting in a change to their way of life. Meiri's position is the subject of a major international campaign. "Meiri, with the little resources and tools available to her, is trying to compete with the subsidised might of the US Rice Industry. People who govern international trade should protect Meiri. "Christian Aid is calling for a ban on subsidised exports. We are not against subsidies within the UK, but subsidising exports mean that Meiri and other farmers in developing countries are forced to compete. "The basic issue is that with something as important as food it is important that the poorest don't become reliant on subsidised imports. Otherwise, what would happen when it stops? It is very important that people are given the change to be self sufficient."
Jan 4

Farmer arrested in 'rave rage' standoff
The Times

BY LEWIS SMITH

A FARMER who was trying to evict 70 ravers from his land was arrested by a police officer he had called in to help. It was the second time in a month that Graeme Stephen, 40, a financier, had found his Essex property invaded by illegal partygoers. Mr Stephen had unplugged the revellers' generator and was in the midst of a stand-up row with them when a sergeant arrested him to prevent violence breaking out.
He is the second farmer recently to find police powerless to help them to deal with ravers because of a loophole in the law. Earlier this week David Benton was threatened with arrest when he grabbed a raver by the scruff of the neck at his farm in Moorby, Lincolnshire.
A spokesman for Essex Police said: "We had one police sergeant, 70 ravers and one unhappy landowner. The sergeant tried to calm the situation, but believed it was getting out of hand. We have every sympathy for people whose property is invaded, but as it stands we are restricted by the law and our first priority is preventing anybody getting hurt."
Jan 4

Children turn backs on farming
Telegraph

YOUNG people are turning away in growing numbers from the farming industry that has supported generations of their families, according to a survey published yesterday.
Forty two per cent of farmers said their children did not want to join the family business when they were older, while a further 23 per cent said their children were as yet undecided.
Only one in three farmers with children said their children definitely wanted to farm, according to the survey, conducted by the Farmers' Union of Wales.
Six hundred farmers in Wales were interviewed for the survey, the results of which were described as "worrying" by the union's president, Bob Parry.
12 October 2001: Family farm profits 'are down to £50 a week'
Jan 4

Queen names her Jubilee charities
The Times

BY ALAN HAMILTON
THE QUEEN has named five charities that will benefit from her Golden Jubilee celebrations. Buckingham Palace asks that any money-raising events to mark the Queen's 50 years on the throne should include a donation to the nominated causes: the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution; Barnardo's; Cruse Bereavement Care; the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association; and I CAN, a national education charity for children with speech and language difficulties. The last is a reminder that her father George VI had to overcome a serious stammer, while the first recognises the suffering of farmers during the foot-and-mouth epidemic.
Jan 4

County call for foot and mouth probe
Luton on Line

Public inquiry needed into devastating outbreak Beds County Council is calling for a full public inquiry into last year s foot-and-mouth crisis. Restrictions were finally lifted across the UK on Tuesday, except in Northumbria.
Here the Conservative-led county council is lobbying the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Margaret Beckett, to commission an independent inquiry.
Executive member, Coun Richard Stay said: "Despite managing to remain disease free in Bedfordshire, the impact of the outbreak on local farmers was immense.
"This council has expressed its full and active support for the farming community within the county and will therefore be making representation to Defra to request a full public inquiry to ensure we learn the lessons from this crisis."
He reminded a meeting of all county councillors of the then Environment Minister, Michael Meacher s statement in April that a wide-ranging public inquiry would be held to ascertain the cause of the outbreak and establish how to prevent another.
Jan 3

The fight for the facts about the foot and mouth disaster
Western Morning News

took a major step forward yesterday when a date was revealed for court action that could lead to the beginning of a full public inquiry. The hearing, backed by the Western Morning News, the Western Mail in Cardiff and the Farmers Weekly magazine, could mean ministers being compelled to give evidence about their handling of the crisis. It comes as Downing Street dismissed a letter - signed by the editors of all three publications plus The Journal in Newcastle - highlighting a petition calling for a public inquiry which was signed by more than 100,000 people 40,000 of them WMN readers. The two paragraph reply from number 10 Downing street, simply referred the matter to the Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs.
WMN Editor Barrie Williams last night described the response as a 'cynical smack in the teeth for all those people who felt so strongly about foot and mouth that they signed the petition'.
He said: "if anything, it's just further proof why there must be a public inquiry. Number 10 just doesn't want to know about foot and mouth."
"This letter is typical. It's the usual Tony Blair evasiveness and dismissiveness of people in the countryside. He doesn't want scrutiny because he knows it could show up his own Government's cruel and chaotic handling of the crisis. But we're not going to let the matter rest, which is why we launched the petition and why we're backing the court action."
Jan 3

Tesco faces farmers' blockade
Farmers' Weekly

PROTEST group Farmers for Action has pledged to blockade distribution depots belonging to Tesco unless the supermarket agrees to talks. Farmers for Action chairman David Handley said Tesco faced the biggest mass action since the fuel protests unless talks were agreed by 8 January. He wants talks with Tesco chief executive Sir Terry Leahy to secure better prices for British farmers who supply the supermarket. Mr Handley claims that Tesco - Britain's most profitable retailer which made £1 billion profit last year - forces farmers to sell produce at a loss. Sir Terry, who was knighted in the New Year honours list, has refused to meet Mr Handley, preferring to deal with the National Farmers' Union.
But Mr Handley said: "We are not going to tolerate being treated like this by someone who has been knighted." He added: "We are ready to step up our action to match the fuel protests."
Tesco has agreed to abide by a voluntary code of practice drawn up in an attempt to improve the relationship between farmers and supermarkets. But farmers claim the code is open to wide interpretation, especially in areas such as changes to prices and payments and consumer complaints.
Jan 3

Farmers seek funds for virus case
Farmers' Weekly

By Tom Allen-Stevens
A GROUP of farmers at the Oxford Farming Conference is raising funds for a judicial review in a bid to force a public inquiry into foot-and-mouth.
Robert Persey, a farmer from Honiton, Devon, launched the fund-raising campaign under the slogan "We seek the truth" on Wednesday (3 January).
"The government doesn't want a national public inquiry because it doesn't want Tony Blair to have to give evidence," he claimed. Mr Persey was supported by a group of about 20 Young Farmers outside the conference centre from Bicester, Aylesbury and Abingdon, Oxfordshire. The judicial review, to be heard in London next month, will decide whether the government should be forced to hold a public inquiry into the crisis.
Mr Persey said: "We need 1000 farmers and supporters, all wearing campaign T-shirts at the High Court when the case is held." A petition for a public inquiry last year attracted 126,000 signatures. It was backed by FARMERS WEEKLY, Western Morning News, Western Mail, Horse & Hound and The Journal, Newcastle. Three of the publications, including FARMERS WEEKLY, are underwriting some of the cost of the judicial review to be heard in mid-February.
Mr Persey said he was asking farmers to make donations and buy T-shirts to fund the shortfall, which will only be needed if the case is lost. The government has refused to hold a public inquiry, saying it would be too costly and take too long. Instead, it has announced a series of investigations.
But Mr Persey said an investigation into the lessons to be learned from foot-and-mouth, chaired by Dr Iain Anderson, would be a farce. Civil servant servants would be reluctant to anything that could undermine the authority of their bosses, he added.
Jan 3

Farm crisis costs reach £500m
BBC Wales


Farmers in Wales have received £56m in compensation The on-going cost of the foot-and-mouth crisis on farming and tourism in Wales has run into hundreds of millions of pounds, the Welsh Assembly has revealed. Rural Affairs Minister Carwyn Jones said the total bill for compensating farmers and testing and culling animals - excluding civil service staff costs - totalled £107m.
A further £65m was set aside in rural aid packages by the assembly for crisis-hit farmers last July. Mr Jones announced the breakdown of the costs in written answers to assembly questions.
In addition, the Wales Tourist Board has reported the industry's losses last year totalled £280m. In total, the crisis in Wales is estimated to have cost nearly £500m. The cost of foot-and-mouth in Wales: Farmer compensation and operational costs - £107,678,406
Cost to tourism -£280,000,000
Crisis aid package - £65,000,000
Mr Jones underlined that the costs were the direct responsibility of the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), in London, and not that of the assembly administration.
All of the crisis aid for the Welsh farms announced last summer comes direct from the assembly's budget. Some £45m was new money, with the remaining £20m reallocated from existing schemes. Wales saw 118 confirmed cases of foot-and-mouth disease - many in Powys, mid Wales - which effectively closed down the farming and tourism industries last year. The government lifted emergency restrictions last November and some livestock markets have re-opened.
Exports of lamb to Europe - a lucrative market for farmers - have slowly resumed. Last autumn, the UK Rural Business Campaign - led by a Powys-based group - said it planned to launch legal action against the government for losses incurred.
Jan 3

Cloning firm shares soar
The Scotsman

Andrew Denholm
Five little pigs who hold the key to transplant breakthrough THE use of animal organs in life-saving transplants has come a step closer with the historic birth of five cloned piglets. The five animals, born in a laboratory in the US on Christmas Day, are the first to have been bred with a distinctive genetic make-up which scientists hope will reduce the risk of their organs being rejected by humans. PPL, a commercial offshoot of the Roslin Institute near Edinburgh, which also produced Dolly the Sheep, said the breakthrough was a major step towards the routine production of animal organs and cells for humans - known as xenotransplantation. Shares in PPL soared by 44 per cent on news of the breakthrough, increasing the value of the company to about £94 million. The birth of the five female piglets, named Noel, Angel, Star, Joy and Mary, could also pave the way for pioneering treatment of diabetes, Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease. ..........
Dr Donald Bruce, from the Church of Scotland's society, religion and technology project, said: "The church gives a cautious welcome to today's announcement. "The prospect of using pig organs to save many human lives, or to improve substantially the quality of life of dialysis patients or diabetics, is attractive from the viewpoint of human medicine. "However, it raises serious ethical issues over the use of animals and a major question of safety." However, Dr Andre Menache, president of Doctors and Lawyers for Responsible Medicine, said xenotransplantation still presented a "Frankenstein scenario". He said: "It seems that all this money and time is being invested in animal experimentation when more and more successes are being made in more viable alternatives, such as stem cell production. "We are opposed to xenotransplantation from a public health point of view, from a moral point of view and from an animal cruelty point of view.
Jan 3

Farmer 'will use violence' if ravers return
Ananova

A farmer says he is prepared to use violence to stop people breaking into his property and holding rave parties. David Benton claims police did nothing as almost 100 ravers took over a turkey shed at his Lincolnshire home on New Year's Eve. Mr Benton, of Moorby, says 10-ton lorries crashed through a gate on his farm delivering disco equipment and alcohol.
The 44-year-old said: "I will defend my property, and I will use violence if I have to if this happens again. The police have already said they will arrest me if I do." "They set up their disco equipment and were having a party," he said. "I called the police and when they arrived they said they could not do anything because it could cause a public order incident." And he added: "It was like being a farmer in Zimbabwe - the police stood outside the gate while inside people were smashing up my property and they were doing nothing about it." He estimates the rave-goers caused more than £600 worth of damage when they broke down a gate and tore open the doors to the turkey shed. They had even brought a portable generator to power lights and music equipment.
Inspector Dick Holmes, of Lincolnshire police says officers can only intervene to break up rave parties if certain criteria are being met. He said: "The law states that there must be more than 100 people in the open air, causing a public disruption - those conditions were not met in this case." And he added: "While we have every sympathy with Mr Benton he will obviously be on a very sticky wicket if he does take any direct action in the future."
Jan 3

New website to help crisis-hit farmers
Ananova

A website helping crisis-hit farmers fight back following the foot-and-mouth outbreak has been launched.
The mass slaughter of animals and restrictions on moving livestock have left thousands of farmers struggling to make a living. Two tourist boards in Cumbria have put their heads together to try to find a way of helping rebuilt the UK's struggling agricultural economy. For many years, even before the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease, farmers across the country had been turning their minds from crops to camps and from cream cheese to cream teas. Following one of the most difficult years in recent times for agricultural businesses in general, more and more farmers are looking to tap into other sources of income.
To help them, the North West and Cumbria tourist boards have come together to back a new project advising farmers on how to branch out into other areas of business, while also attracting more people back to the countryside. Under the scheme farmers across the country who offer bed and breakfast country holidays and short breaks are being connected to some hi-tech help to bolster their businesses. Farm Tourism Matters has hints for farmers aiming to capitalise on the 248 million day trips made to the British countryside each year.
As well as having tips for those starting out, the two tourist boards are hoping the site www.farmtourism-matters.org will become a useful forum for rural businesspeople to exchange ideas and best practice.
Catherine Lawrence, project co-ordinator of Farm Tourism North West, who is spearheading the campaign, said visitor spending in the countryside injected a massive £3.8 billion into the rural economy each year, supporting some 340,000 jobs.
Jan 3

Isolation fears as Euro rolls in
Farmers' Weekly

By Alistair Driver
BRITISH farmers could find themselves increasingly isolated now the Euro has finally become legal tender, economists have warned. The introduction of the single currency across 12 European countries could hurt British farmers, according to the National Farmers' Union. Policy director Martin Howarth believes the European Union food chain will become increasingly integrated. Many supermarkets and food processors are likely to prefer the security of the Euro over Sterling, he said.
UK farmers will also lose out on the benefits of being able to compare input prices from Dublin to Dresden, added Mr Howarth. "There is a danger that the EU food chain will build up within the Euro zone and we will find ourselves outside looking in," he said. "We will not have that advantage of price transparency."
The scrapping of the agrimoney system that compensated farmers for currency changes has left British farmers at the mercy of the strong Pound. Francis Mordaunt, head of business research at Andersons farm business consultants, said a weaker Pound would benefit UK farmers. But he warned that British farmers could find it harder to trade in the long-run if the UK stays out of the Euro.
"The UK will be disadvantaged by not being fully a part of Europe. There are likely to be barriers to trade as long as we are outside." Sean Rickard, lecturer at the Cranfield School of Management, said the decision not to tie sterling to the Euro had "crucified" the industry. "The arrival of the Euro, if everything goes according to plan, might just see a change in public attitude and a change of policy from Tony Blair. "It would be very good news if we join," he added.
David Turner, director of agriculture at PricewaterhouseCoopers, believes it is likely to be 2007 at the earliest before the UK joins the Euro. Mr Turner said he felt the Prime Minister would wait until after the next election to call a referendum on whether to join the single currency. "In the meantime, UK farming could fall off the edge of the cliff if the Pound gets stronger," he said.
Jan 2

Beckett to address farm conference
Farmers' Weekly

RURAL Affairs Secretary Margaret Beckett is expected to outline her vision for the future of farming at the Oxford Farming Conference. The two-day annual conference, which begins on Thursday (3 January), is called Building Our New Industry.
Mrs Beckett has been asked to outline the role she believes farming should take within the rural economy after the foot-and-mouth crisis. After 90 days without a confirmed case of foot-and-mouth, there is a growing feeling that 2002 will be a turning point for the countryside.
The three-month gap, which passed on 29 December, is one condition the UK had to meet before it can be formally declared foot-and-mouth free. It paves the way for export restrictions and other control measures to be lifted over the next few months. Ministers, farm leaders and countryside groups are eager to tempt visitors back into the countryside in a bid to kick-start a recovery.
A campaign carrying the message that the countryside is open for business in 2002 is planned for early this year. Cumbrian farmer Alistair Wannop, who will also address delegates, said his county would rise like a phoenix from the flames after the epidemic. Meat and Livestock Commission chairman Peter Barr will reveal how consumer confidence can be rebuilt in the British meat industry.
Jan 2

Sheep cull fuels fear of return of foot and mouth
Guardian

As Northumberland is about to be declared disease free, a prized flock is slaughtered as a precaution Peter Hetherington Regional affairs editor
Deep in the North Tyne valley some talked ominously of foot and mouth returning. Official reassurances from the department for rural affairs that 2,100 sheep from Donkleywood farm had been culled simply as a precaution fell on deaf ears. Only a few hours into the new year, the steady stream of lorries carrying the carcasses along the narrow, slushy road from Bellingham to Tyneside and a disposal site beyond evoked memories of a horror many thought had been consigned to 2001.
Martin Weeks, who has farmed the 600 upland acres of Donkleywood for 19 years, could find no words to describe the slaughter of a prized flock just as Northumberland was about to be labelled disease free by the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). "I am not finding this easy and cannot talk about it," he said. "I am extremely upset." With just 25 cattle left to tend, he did not want to comment on Defra's decision to slaughter his sheep because routine blood tests revealed two of them had foot and mouth antibodies, indicating they may have contracted the disease and recovered. They had their rules, he said.
But Mr Weeks's silence spoke volumes about the shadow of foot and mouth returning to a county where tight movement restrictions in a bio-security zone south of Donkleywood were lifted less than two months ago.
Mass culling on New Year's Day, on top of the 3.9m animals slaughtered over the past 10 months on almost 9,400 farms, carried a certain symbolism in the local pub, the Hollybush Arms. Farming neighbours of Mr Weeks had little to celebrate. "We have seen this all before," said one, who recalled the re-emergence of the disease in the south of the county late last August. "The government have wanted this to go away and tried to make sure it did," said another. "We are keeping our fingers crossed." Another added: "There's something not quite right about this." But Defra insisted the cull was not a new outbreak. "There is no evidence of active disease at present," said Keith Raine, director of the Disease Emergency Control Centre in Newcastle upon Tyne. "The farm is being treated as a dangerous contact, not an infected premise. What we have found is exposure to the disease at some point in the past so we are slaughtering the flock as a precaution."
Such reassurance, however, fuels more speculation. Defra insists that, so far, there is no evidence of foot and mouth elsewhere in the area, al though further tests will be carried out. But the national Foot and Mouth Group, comprising vets and countryside campaigners, claimed last night that secret culling was still taking place in several parts of the country.
Since the last official outbreak at Whygill Head farm, near Appleby in Cumbria on September 30, it says the slaughter figures nationally have risen by 113,395. "They are going up again," insisted Valerie Lusmore, a mathematician who advises the group and regularly monitors Defra statistics. "They are almost always animals with antibodies and they seem to be shifting figures around, but the trend is upwards."
But any talk of a statistical conspiracy is dismissed by ministers and by the National Farmers' Union. Its Northumberland branch said yesterday that with 250,000 blood tests on animals, only 12 had been shown to be positive since the end of November.
That is little comfort to Martin Weeks in Donkleywood and his neighbours in the North Tyne valley where the waiting, and watching, has begun again.
Jan 2

A better year ahead for Brown than Blair
The Times

TIM HAMES
Power is not unlike that fateful drink too far at a New Year's Eve celebration. It is obvious that you have had it only after it has been consumed and by then it is too late to wish that you had organised matters differently. The past 12 months have seen exceptional power placed in the hands of the Prime Minister. The combination of a domestic crisis (foot-and-mouth), for which he assumed personal command; a second sweeping election victory for Labour, with him at the helm; a reorganisation of Downing Street along explicitly presidential lines; and then his role after September 11 have pushed his personal ratings back towards stratospheric levels and made the words "Tony wants" once more the most significant phrase in Whitehall. Yet, as surely as the new year has replaced the old, this Prime Ministerial omnipotence is waning. On reflection, Tony Blair was probably at the peak of his power last October. He dashed around the world at the behest of the American President and dominated the headlines. He was, if he had recognised it then, in a unique position to impose his will on Cabinet, party and country.
But 2002 will witness a return to business as usual. Mr Blair will find his time increasingly absorbed by the mundanities of domestic politics. He will watch in frustration as the arrival of the single currency fails to shift national sentiment towards monetary union. He will discover that his hour of influence on the White House has slipped by as US foreign policy shifts towards a new and still underestimated form of assertive unilateralism. Like Cinderella, he will discover that having enjoyed the Ball, the chimes have struck and all he is left with are the memories and a pumpkin. ..........
Iain Duncan Smith and Charles Kennedy may find this year that they are strategically outmanoeuvred by a resurgent Chancellor holding all the cards and left with a sense of irrelevance. If it is any comfort to them, the Prime Minister might well enter 2003 harbouring similar misgivings.
Jan 2

France in breach of Community law over ban on British beef
The Times

COURT OF JUSTICE OF THE EUROPEAN COMMUNITIES Commission of the European Communities (supported by United Kingdom, intervener) v French Republic Case C-1/00 Before C. J. Rodrmguez Iglesias, President and Judges P. Jann, F. Macken, N. Colneric, S. von Bahr, C. Gulmann, D. A. O. Edward, A. La Pergola, J.-P. Puissochet, L. Sevsn, M. Wathelet, R. Schintgen and V. Skouris Advocate General J. Mischo (Opinion September 20) Judgment December 13, 2001
By refusing to permit the sale of correctly marked and labelled British beef in French territory, France was in breach of Community law.
The Court of Justice of the European Communities so held in an action by the Commission under article 226 EC for a declaration that France had failed to fulfil its obligations under (i) Council Decision 98/256/EC of March 16, 1998 (OJ 1999 L195, p42) concerning emergency measures to protect against bovine spongiform encephalopathy ("BSE"), in the version as amended in Commission Decision 98/692/EC of November 25, 1998 (OJ 1998 L328, p28) and (ii) Commission Decision 1999/514/EC of July 23, 1999 setting the date on which dispatch from the United Kingdom of bovine products under the date-based export scheme might commence by virtue of article 6(5) of Decision 98/256. .................. On those grounds, inter alia, the European Court:
1 Declared that, by refusing to adopt the measures necessary in order to comply with (i) Decision 98/256 as amended, in particular article 6 and annex III, and (ii) Decision 1999/514, in particular article 1, the French Republic, in particular by refusing to permit the marketing in its territory after December 30, 1999 of products subject to the date-based export scheme which were correctly marked or labelled, had failed to fulfil its obligations under those two decisions, in particular their provisions referred to;
2 Dismissed the remainder of the application;
3 Ordered the French Republic to bear two-thirds of the costs and the Commission to bear the other third; and
4 Ordered the United Kingdom to bear its own costs.
Jan 2

COMMENT 22nd/29th December 2001
Vet Record

.....Methods available for controlling infectious diseases of animals have been called into question, as have systems of livestock production and the place of agriculture in the wider economy. In political terms, the impact of the epidemic can be measured by the fact that, as a result of the outbreaks, local elections and the General Election were postponed for the first time since the Second World War.
Shortcomings in the resources available for state veterinary provision and research into animal diseases have been highlighted, and questions have been raised about the way in which science is translated into policy and policies are translated into action in the field. Some of these questions are being addressed in the various inquiries that have been set up to look into the outbreaks (albeit that some people feel that one, all-embracing inquiry might be more effective) and it is to be hoped that answers are both found and applied.
The impact of the FMD epidemic has been felt far beyond the UK, as highlighted at an EC conference in Brussels last week, at which delegates considered the consequences of the outbreaks and the options for preventing and controlling the disease in the future. The need to develop alternative strategies was emphasised particularly strongly by Mr Laurens Jan Brinkhorst, agriculture minister in the Netherlands, which suffered the largest number of outbreaks after the UK and where public reaction to the slaughter of animals was, if anything, even greater.
Mr David Byrne, the EU Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, signalled his intention to introduce a new directive on the issue early next year, and said that the EU would be looking for a new agreement on how to deal with FMD internationally by 2003. Reiterating a view expressed by many over the past 10 months, he remarked, 'It is simply inconceivable that we could ever allow a repeat of the crisis that occurred this year.'
Dec 31

England set to be declared free of foot-and-mouth
Ananova

Chief Veterinary Officer Jim Scudamore is to receive the results of tests which could see England declared free of foot-and-mouth disease after more than 10 months. Government vets worked through the weekend in four regions of the country still classed as being "at risk". They carried out blood tests on farm animals to ensure that they are rid of the disease, three months after the last recorded case. It is hoped that Mr Scudamore would be able to declare Cumbria, North Yorkshire, Durham and Northumberland foot-and-mouth free early this week, clearing the way for England to be declared free of foot-and-mouth. A spokeswoman for the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said a "massive effort" had been put in to complete the tests and prepare reports on the four counties for Mr Scudamore. "The three months guideline is just one element of all this. Each region has its own peculiarities and the Chief Veterinary Officer has to take a view on each case," she said.
The last case of foot-and-mouth was confirmed in Cumbria on September 30, eight months after the start of the outbreak, which was the most serious animal disease epidemic in the UK in modern times and led to the slaughter of millions of animals. If disease-free status is achieved, the next step for many in the farming community will be the relaxation of restrictions imposed at the start of the outbreak. This is expected in the worst-hit areas by mid-February, and will involve the re-opening of cattle markets and the general licensing of animal movements.
Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have already been declared disease free.
Dec 31

Mexicans fume over genetically modified corn
Times of India

EXICO CITY: In a cautionary tale about the difficulty of controlling genetically modified plants, corn researchers in Mexico went ever higher into remote mountain villages looking for natural varieties of the 4,000-year-old crop. Time after time, they couldn't find them. Samples revealed that just a few years of unlabeled U.S. imports had transferred modified genes to local corn in the southern state of Oaxaca - even though planting genetically modified crops is banned in this country, the birthplace of corn.
The discovery, confirmed in the science magazine Nature this month, caused outrage among Mexicans, whose ancestors believed the gods created Man from an ear of corn.
"It's a worse attack on our culture than if they had torn down the cathedral of Oaxaca and built a McDonald's over it," said Hector Magallone, an activist with environmental group Greenpeace. There is no evidence that genetically modified grains harm those who eat them. But some scientists worry that genetically modified strains could displace or contaminate Mexico's genetic warehouse of over 60 corn varieties - a wealth that enriches staple crops worldwide and includes wild varieties that have yet to be cataloged.
The accidental spread of laboratory-inserted genes, scientists fear, could allow aggressive plants to crowd out other varieties, reducing biological diversity. Diversity is prized as a hedge against disease, pests and climate change. While some plant strains may be vulnerable to one disease, others may have natural immunity that enables them to survive. The case has drawn international attention. In an open letter, 80 scientists from a dozen countries have asked the Mexican government to stop the genetic contamination.
Dec 31

Japanese researchers create prion antibody to help CJD, BSE
Kyodo News

SAPPORO, Dec. 30, Kyodo - Scientists in Hokkaido said Sunday they have created a unique protein that links only with an abnormal protein called prion believed to cause mad cow disease and a variant of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) that is associated with it.
The researchers at the Obihiro University of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine, headed by Morikazu Shinagawa, said the discovery may help diagnosis and treatment of CJD and mad cow, also known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). A new test method on BSE will likely be developed using the antibody, they said.
According to Motohiro Horiuchi, an assistant professor on the team, a Swiss researcher announced in 1997 the discovery of an antibody to an abnormal prion. But the researcher failed to provide further successful test data.
The three-dimensional structures of an abnormal prion are still unknown, but an analysis of the molecular structure of the antibody is expected to shed light on the matter, the researchers said. Three cows have been confirmed with BSE in Japan since September.
Dec 31

Campaigns for justice can still be won
Sunday Telegraph Booker's Notebook

AT the end of the year I reflect sadly on how many battles that I have reported in this column seem to wind on without resolution. One of the weirdest battles of 2001, for instance, was that over the vaccination of animals against foot and mouth disease.
On one hand a phalanx of the world's leading veterinary experts, led by Professor Fred Brown, Dr Simon Barteling and Dr Paul Sutmoller, tirelessly made the case for a vaccination policy that could have saved Britain from much of its worst ever farming disaster.
Yet on Friday's BBC Today programme, the Government's chief scientist, Professor David King - whose expertise is "surface chemistry" - was yet again allowed by the presenter James Naughtie to trot out all those tired objections to vaccination that are dismissed by the real experts as being based on no more than scientific ignorance.
Change, however, may be on the way. Earlier this month, at a two-day international conference in Brussels, it was clear that the British team, led by Margaret Beckett, the Secretary of State for the Environment, was now almost totally isolated in its hostility to vaccination.
It was the British who, in 1990, persuaded Brussels to drop the policy of routine vaccination which in 30 years had made the European Community disease free.
As David Byrne, the Commissioner in charge of foot and mouth policy, made clear, however, there is no way that the EU could accept any repetition of the catastrophic mass-slaughter of healthy animals which marked the 2001 epidemic in Britain.
Mrs Beckett and Professor King may soon find they are forced to accept vaccination regardless. It will be fascinating to see just how quickly their objections melt away once the policy line from the top has changed.....

Thank you, readers

BY ancient ritual, as another year ends I should like to thank all those readers who have sent in such encouraging letters in 2001, not all of whom have had a proper reply. In particular this year I have had several hundred often harrowing letters from farmers and their wives facing the ordeal of the foot and mouth crisis, or rather the Government's grotesquely incompetent and arrogant response to it.
I should also like to thank those readers who so generously contributed more than £60,000 towards the Metric Martyrs Defence Fund, and to assure them that, when those Appeal Court judges have finally scratched their heads long enough to come up with a judgment, it seems just possible they may not be wholly disappointed by the outcome.
Meanwhile a Happy New Year to you all.
Dec 30

Mean Fields: Jonathan Miller: Bury this rural myth in concrete
Sunday Times

Rupert the ram is in with the ewes and has been diligent in his work. So in five months we will have baby sheep. I am not sure why I have allowed myself to be talked into permitting this as the last thing I need is any more sheep. After the holocaust of the year, and the emergence of Defra, the reorganised department of rural terrorism, there is hardly much point in carrying on with the ludicrous farce of agriculture.
.............. Here is the situation, Peter: the British farm economy is, broadly speaking, in two estates. There are the masochistic, foolish and self-deluded who carry on farming though they could make more money scanning Argentine corned beef in Tesco and without getting covered in manure. These people, who are frequently charming and resourceful, receive nothing but obstruction for their efforts, other than the psychic reward of being close to nature. Then there are the big subsidy farmers, represented by the National Farmers' Union, comprising less than 20% of the farmers and receiving 80% of the subsidies. These subsidies are typically paid for these people to do terrible things with their animals, to grow crops saturated in chemicals and to stuff their wallets with cash from consumers who are the captives of a gigantic, perverse and corrupt agrisubsidy empire. These are the people who gave us BSE and the foot and mouth catastrophe. You can recognise them in the country because they are the ones driving new four-wheel-drives paid for by Defra. .....
Dec 30

Calves slaughtered over veal-crate ban
Sunday Times

HUNDREDS of thousands of newborn calves are being killed each year as a result of animal welfare laws and restrictions on exports after the BSE and foot and mouth crises, writes John Elliott. Previously, the animals would have been turned into veal or exported. But the ban on the use of veal crates, phased in during the 1990s, has meant that about 200,000 animals that would previously have been required for the industry have instead been killed at birth. A further 370,000 a year used to be sent abroad despite vocal protests from animal rights activists at the Channel ports, often for veal production in France or Holland. They are now slaughtered instead as they have no market value. ...................... A spokesman for the RSPCA said that, compared with a short life in a veal crate, an early death for bobby calves was "the lesser of two evils". The 40,000 calves raised for veal each year used to spend their short lives tethered in small cages until the practice was banned. ........
Dec 30

Country diary: the cull continues
Telegraph

(Filed: 29/12/2001) RWF Poole is aghast at Defra's behaviour
WERE you not all mightily impressed as to how, the very moment Mr Blair declared "The War Against Terrorism" (what an interesting acronym that makes) foot and mouth seemed to disappear from the world's radar screens? Did Ma Beckett and her boys wave a magic wand?
Many of you will remember Bob the Contractor and the extracts from his diary that made such painful reading. I am glad to say that Bob is well and still keeping his diary and will continue to do so while the cull continues.
"Cull? What cull?" I hear you cry. How can there still be murder afoot when our wonderful Government has found time to stop the virus just as efficiently as it is doing away with the Mad Mullahs? That is really two questions and the answer to both is that it (the Government) has not. Just as it papered over "domestic terrorism", so it is attempting to paper over foot and mouth by writing up new infections as "DCs" (Dangerous Contacts) and "SOSs" (Slaughter on Suspicion). How does it get away with this? The answer in one word is "intimidation". Farmers won't talk because they won't get paid. The same goes for the contractors and the vets. The vets are in double jeopardy, because by turning a blind eye they are ipso facto guilty of "professional misconduct", which could get them drummed out of the proverbial Brownies.
I heard what Bob told me and shook my head. It was not that I did not believe him; it was just that I did not see how Defra could hope to get away with such egregious behaviour. This was especially so as Defra had just given the go-ahead for hunting to start again, albeit so wrapped in red tape that there will be enough going spare to plait the mane of every hunter in the country. It was then that the ghastly penny dropped and just at the same time I received a most interesting document.
I have never tried to wrestle with the Defra website. I have been told that it is totally impenetrable and, anyway, I reckoned that any organisation that issues map references for farms that puts them on the Dogger Bank is unlikely to issue accurate figures. However, some people are made of sterner stuff. Tucked away somewhere in England is a professional analyst who decided to untangle the sticky threads of the Defra web and produce a chart of his findings. I must emphasise that all these figures were taken from the Defra web and are therefore in the public domain.
Somehow or other, a copy of this chart landed on my desk. It apparently shows the numbers of animals slaughtered for reasons of foot and mouth during the month of November. I am definitely not a professional analyst and, indeed, I am dyscalculic. However, as far as I can make out, the numbers slaughtered on infected premises during that month decreased by 10,349. This should be encouraging, except that we have heard nothing of these infected premises.
Be that as it may, the total number of animals - sheep, pigs, goats deer and "others" - slaughtered in November showed an increase of a staggering 62,496. Only cattle showed a decrease. Of these figures, sheep (39,840) and pigs (23,674) make up the bulk. Most of these were slaughtered as DCs on both "Contiguous" and "Non-Contiguous Premises", "contiguous" meaning "bordering an infected premises". By now I expect that you are as confused as I am and asking the question: what infected premises? And, if they are still about, why has Defra allowed hunting to start again? I fear the answer to that - it is the ghastly penny that dropped. Defra must know that its cover-up is paper thin and, when it tears and the virus pops out again, the wicked fox-hunters will make a perfect scapegoat to be slaughtered.
Dec 29

Visit the countryside, Britons told
The Times

BY VALERIE ELLIOTT, COUNTRYSIDE EDITOR
A NEW campaign to encourage people to visit the countryside is to be launched by the Government in the new year. There have been no new cases of foot-and-mouth disease for three months, but many rural firms are on the brink of bankruptcy. Ministers want to encourage more day-trips; they also want families to choose walking and exploring holidays in Britain during February half-term week. Owners of heritage properties are being urged to open their houses and gardens earlier to extend the tourism season.
Rural campaign groups and MPs, however, are demanding that the Government also grants longer tax holidays and VAT and business rate deferrals to allow firms to continue trading until incomes return to normal. The Country Land and Business Association is also calling for an overhaul of the tax regime for the agriculture industry to give farmers more incentive to start new rural enterprises. For example, under the rules farmers and landowners lose relief from inheritance tax if they start a new business in farm buildings.
Peter Ainsworth, Conservative Rural Affairs spokesman, said: "We must give more help to rural firms as the package so far is inadequate and fails to understand the long term impact of the disease." Even though tomorrow is a symbolic date for the ending of the virus, Britain will not be officially decreed free of foot-and-mouth until a panel of international veterinary experts meets in Paris next month.
Bobby Waugh, the Northumberland pig farmer blamed for starting the foot-and-mouth epidemic, is to give up farming because he "has lost heart". Mr Waugh, 56, has given up the tenancy of Burnside Farm, Heddon-on-the-Wall, and is to appear before magistrates next May on 22 charges relating to animal husbandry and welfare.
Dec 29

France set to overtake Britain in new BSE cases
Independent

By Steve Connor, Science Editor
France will officially report more new cases of BSE than Britain next year for the first time since scientists identified "mad cow" disease in 1986. An analysis of the rising number of French cattle being diagnosed with bovine spongiform encephalopathy, and the rapidly diminishing scale of the British epidemic, reveals that the cross-over point will be reached in 2002. The prospect of France becoming the number one European country for recently diagnosed cases of BSE will be acutely embarrassing for the French government which stands alone in Europe in banning beef imports from the United Kingdom on the basis of BSE risk. .............. Whereas the number of new cases of BSE in Britain has almost halved each year in the past few years - and plummeted from its annual peak of nearly 37,000 cases in 1992 - BSE in France has risen sharply in each of the past five years.
There were six cases of BSE in France in 1997 but by 2000 the number had risen to 161. In 2001, confirmed cases have reached 258. If the trends continue, France will overtake the United Kingdom in the second half of next year with no sign of its own home-grown epidemic having peaked.
British farmers have long been suspicious of the degree to which their French counterparts have covered up their cases of BSE - one British joke is that the French acronym for the disease is "JCB" because each suspect animal is buried so quickly. This suspicion was borne out to some extent after the French government imposed mandatory BSE testing in abattoirs, which revealed many more cases of the disease than would have been reported otherwise. Some scientists argue that if Britain did the same it too would have to revise its BSE figures upwards. ............. France is known to have imported thousands of tons of animal feed contaminated with BSE from the United Kingdom at the end of the 1980s before the trade was stopped.
Like Britain, France also rendered the remains of cattle carcasses into animal feed. This continued for several years after the practice was banned in the United Kingdom. This would have helped to spread BSE throughout the French national herd.
In 1996, the European Union imposed a ban on the export of British beef after the discovery of a link between BSE and the human brain disease, variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, but this was lifted in 1999 after Britain imposed stricter safety measures. France, however, declared a two-year embargo on British beef imports. Earlier this month, the European Court of Justice declared that it was illegal for France not to have lifted its import ban on British beef in 1999 with the rest of the European Union. The French government has yet to indicate whether it is ready to comply with the ruling. It faces massive fines if it fails to do so.
Dec 29

Orton Grave: now they seek approval
Cumberland News

The Government has hinted for the first time that it should have sought permission to bury 500,000 slaughtered sheep in Cumbria. The Cumberland News has learned that DEFRA has put in a retrospective planning application to turn the airfield at Great Orton into a mass grave. The move throws into doubt whether the Government was within its rights to push through the plan without restrictions after just one full day's consultation with the Environment Agency. Last night a DEFRA spokesman admitted the move was an attempt to "square the circle". And Labour MP Eric Martlew said the Animal Health Bill - which will make it more difficult for farmers to appeal against the culling in future - was recognition that there were "things we did not have the legal powers for". That reaction led Conservative City Council leader Mike Mitchelson to describe the Government's behaviour as "astounding" and renew calls for a public inquiry.
The Great Orton burial site hit national headlines when it became operational on March 26 after the intervention of the Army under Brigadier Alex Birtwistle. Around 466,000 animals had been dumped in 120-yard trenches by the start of September despite residents' fears that the Environment Agency had only learned of the plan on March 24. DEFRA said at the time that it did not have to seek permission before constructing the mass grave under emergency powers. Now DEFRA has lodged an application with Cumbria County Council for the site, together with plans for its future use. A spokeswoman for Carlisle City Council confirmed yesterday that the authority had received a retrospective application for the Great Orton site in its role as consultant. Allerdale councillors will also have a say before the county's development control committee meets to decide the issue in the spring. DEFRA owns and manages the site, but was only able to go ahead under licence from the Environment Agency. ........... Mr Mitchelson said the Government had "railroaded" public opinion during the crisis. "I find it astounding that they come at this time with a planning application to dispose of carcasses," he said. "Measures did have to be taken but it just reinforces the railroading of local feeling throughout the outbreak. This just shows why there must be a full public inquiry."
DEFRA revealed in October that it was likely to apply to the Environment Agency to license the site for a further 250,000 carcasses in case there were further outbreaks. The department has already built a 40ft underground wall around the mass grave to prevent leakage from rotting carcasses. Liquid waste from the site is being pumped out of the site in a process likely to continue for a decade, with the latest bout of heavy-duty drainage set to finish in mid-January.
DEFRA has already indicated it may eventually want to turn the site into a nature reserve, although the public are unlikely to be granted full access. Simon Barron, of the Environment Agency, said: "Over time everything that can be broken down from the carcasses will be gone and nothing will be released at all."
Dec 28

MORE VETS MIGHT HAVE AVOIDED SLAUGHTER
Cumberland News

THE Government's chief vet, Jim Scudamore, says the mass slaughter of animals in the foot and mouth outbreak might have been avoided, if only we'd had more vets.. He says it might not have been necessary to implement the contiguous cull policy if more vets had been available. "We simply ran out of vets," .............
Cumbrians constantly complained that there was a lack of understanding in London about the seriousness of the situation.
Cumbrian vet David Black, of the Paragon Veterinary Group in Dalston, disagreed with Mr Scudamore.
"It wasn't the number of vets, it was the way in which they were used," he said.
"We were like cannon fodder being sent out of the trenches. Local vets were not used effectively. "There was no structure, no hierarchy, just blanket policies from London which we were expected to carry out."
Mr Black also questioned whether the search for vets was carried out speedily enough. "Older vets weren't allowed to help at first because they were retired," he said.
Dec 28

2001: YEAR OF THE HEROES TODAY The Cumberland News pays tribute to the Cumbrian heroes of 2001.
Cumberland News

.............Jonathan and Sandra Stalker, farmers at Ratten Castle, Sowerby Row, on behalf of all the farmers caught up in the utter confusion of the early days of the cull. The couple, and dozens like them went to hell and back in the space of three days. The Stalkers had 1,300 sheep and 280 cattle, and faced complete wipe-out, reprieve and then slaughter of their healthy sheep within days as the Government announced the 3km cull policy then changed its mind about cattle. Maff officials struggled with the practicalities, and with phone lines jammed, all many farmers had to go on was rumour and conflicting official advice. Mrs Stalker said at the time: "It's been absolutely terrible. It's just like waiting to be hung..." l Farmers' spokesmen Les Armstrong and Will Cockbain for maintaining a voice of reason. Mr Armstrong, from Kirkoswald and Mr Cockbain, from Keswick, both NFU representatives in Cumbria, were on opposite sides of the foot and mouth debate. Mr Cockbain argued on national television for vaccination, and Mr Armstrong supported the cull. But while conspiracy theories abounded, some were talking of taking up guns and others were comparing Tony Blair with Hitler, they remained calm, respectful and called repeatedly for reasoned debate. l Caroline Fox, 12, of Hilltop Farm in Longtown, for a spirit that wouldn't be beaten. Caroline wrote to the then agriculture minister Nick Brown in April asking him to save her pet lamb and sheep from the foot and mouth cull. She did not receive a reply and her sheep were slaughtered weeks later.............
Dec 28

F&M: The rural nemesis
The countryside became a huge no-entry zone for months
BBC

By Alex Kirby
The foot-and-mouth outbreak of 2001 proved a classic example of how to turn a crisis into a fully-fledged copper-bottomed disaster. It meant the deaths of nearly four million animals, and destroyed thousands of farmers' livelihoods. It brought devastation to much of the tourist industry and the rural economy.
But there was little reason for it to turn out like that.
The government's first mistake was to think, in the earliest days of the outbreak, that it was dealing with a disease that was mainly affecting pigs. Foot-and-mouth spreads rapidly among pigs, and once the disease enters a herd it can cause havoc. But pigs tend not to be moved around the country as much as sheep. It now looks as if the disease had infected very few sheep at that stage, perhaps fewer than 20 animals. But the second mistake was not to place an instant ban on the movement of farm animals. The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Maff, now renamed the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) simply did not realise ........ that sheep were often sold informally, without entering a market. It did not know about "bed-and-breakfast sheep", hired out overnight to a farmer who wanted to top up his herd numbers for an inspection. Yet these were ideal ways of shuttling sheep the length and breadth of Britain, carrying the virus with them.
Foot-and-mouth disease is not a newcomer to the UK. The last serious outbreak was well within the memory of farmers working today, in 1967. If Maff officials had read the report on the handling of the 1967 outbreak, they showed no sign of having done so.
The report argued for the army to be brought in early in an outbreak to help Maff to control it. But Maff, true to form, continued to believe that it could save the day unaided, and the army was left on the sidelines for three weeks. The government was convinced it could overcome the outbreak by slaughtering both infected and potentially infected animals. But in a crucial error it failed to will the means to achive its aim. The result was animals waiting too long to die, and carcasses waiting too long for burial.
There was another strategy which ministers toyed with, but never found the will to use - vaccination. Foot-and-mouth disease does not often kill healthy animals, nor invariably cause them great suffering. Vaccinating them can give some protection, even though it has to be repeated every six months or so. .... At the least, vaccinating animals in a ring round a source of infection might have helped to slow its spread. But it was never tried. And finding out from Maff what was happening was often confusing and seldom straightforward. ....
"Telephoning Maff was like ringing the Bermuda Triangle," the journalist says. "The 'phones would ring and ring unanswered until I gave up.
"I eventually realised the only way I could talk to Nick Brown was to doorstep him as he came out of Maff, or to sit in the pub round the corner and wait to surprise him there." The cost of all this? The Countryside Agency put the cost to UK farming in 2001 at between £800m and £2.4bn. The cost to tourism, it reckoned, was between £2bn and £3bn this year. Yet it was the government which originally warned people not to venture into the countryside, for fear of spreading the disease.
Dec 24

I AM GETTING HOUNDED OUT AND MADE A FALL GUY
Evening Chronicle

FOOT and mouth farmer Bobby Waugh - blamed for starting the epidemic - has quit farming. He has given up the tenancy of Burnside Farm, Heddon-on-the-Wall, Northumberland, the Chronicle can reveal. ..... Almost 11 months after the start of the outbreak which has devastated the countryside, work is expected to start on disinfecting the farm within weeks. .......... He claimed he has been hounded out of farming by Government officials determined to make him the fall guy for the crisis.
Mr Waugh's farm was singled out by the Government as the likely source of the epidemic which has resulted in 3,912,700 cattle being slaughtered nationally with 376,125 of those in the North East, costing the region £200 million. He said: "There is no way I am going back to pig farming. I have said all along I am a scapegoat for foot and mouth. "The amount of money I have lost is unbelievable and for nothing. I have spent almost £30,000 since February on the farm and have had no income coming in. "It was like throwing money down the drain. My father was a farmer and it is what I have done all my life but there is no way I am going back. I don't know what I am going to do."
Now the landlord-owner of Burnside Farm, Phillip Leadbitter, has applied to Defra for a licence to start the clean-up. A Defra spokesman said they had been approached by the lease owner to make arrangements at the farm to begin secondary cleaning and disinfection. He said: "This is normal practice where foot and mouth disease has been present and where veterinary advice would suggest an ongoing risk."
Mr Waugh said: "For months all I have wanted to do is to get the farm clean and ready to start again but I have been blocked at every step. "I have been driven out of business. There was no point in me having the farm if I can't even get it cleaned and get back to work." . ...........
Hexham MP Peter Atkinson said: "It is heading towards a year since the outbreak began and the farm at the start of it still hasn't been cleaned-up. Something should have been done by now." ............... Earlier this year the Chronicle revealed the Government had spent almost £80 million disinfecting farms in the North East. Another £120 million has gone on compensation cash to farmers whose animals have been culled. Mr Waugh claims Defra and its predecessor Maff have blocked him from cleaning his farm.
The Chronicle revealed he was offered £10,000 in compensation to clean-up the farm - but only if he signed the Official Secrets Act. That decision was reversed 24 hours later.
Mr Waugh used to run Tile Shed Lane Piggeries in East Boldon, South Tyneside, but was thrown off in August 1994 for breaching the terms of his small-holding tenancy. South Tyneside Council launched a legal bid to have him ejected after complaints he kept his pigs in squalid conditions. There were also allegations he let slurry run into the drains, kept more pigs than his tenancy allowed and had failed to do repairs. Mr Waugh fought the case for nearly two years before being forced off after an agricultural land tribunal. Mr Waugh has pleaded not guilty to 22 animal health offences relating to Burnside Farm which are expected to go to trial in the New Year. He faces charges under the Animal Health Act, Protection of Animals Act and Trade Descriptions Act in a case being brought by Northumberland County Council trading standards department. He added: "I am not bothered by the court case I have nothing to hide. I just wish they would get on with this so I could clear my name." "I am not public enemy number one and I am not the villain of the piece. When my pigs were burned it was the worst day of my life. "Nothing has changed. There is still 65,000 gallons of pig slurry under the sheds waiting to be cleared. "Every other farmer affected by foot and mouth has been allowed to clean up his premises and return to farming, and have earned tens of thousands of pounds in compensation. "If they'd allowed me to do the same on day-one I could have been back working the place by now."
Farm manager Stephen Smith, 34, from Alnwick, said: "The Government have been looking for someone to blame and it seems they have decided Bobby Waugh is the scapegoat. "He has been treated shabbily all along and has been hounded out. Times are hard and I think a lot of other farmers will eventually make the same decision he has."
Dec 24

NEW ALLIANCE WARNS OF ANIMAL HEALTH BILL DANGERS
NST SG

- an analysis of the hidden impact of the Animal Health Bill reveals the dangers to livestock heritage and to farmers' rights. In a detailed paper published today a specialist sheep group, supported by Rare Breeds International (RBI) and The Traditional Livestock Foundation (TLF), sets out the dangers lurking within the Animal Health Bill currently before Parliament.
Convenor of the Northern Short-Tailed Sheep Group (NST SG), Peter Titley, said: "The unprecedented and extreme measures in the Bill would give the Government powers to override the civil liberties of farmers beyond anything experienced during the Foot and Mouth outbreak - so much so, that some genetically vital breeds are threatened with extinction and all of this on the back of unreliable science"
The Group demands further exploration of the prion protein mechanisms which lie at the heart of the Government's panic measures over BSE and Scrapie - both known as Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies (TSEs).
Lawrence Alderson of Rare Breeds International points out that: "Part of the sheep industry, with breeds claiming high scrapie resistance, have already embraced the Government's plan to eradicate the disease from the national flock, but the NST SG rightly points out that the industry may be insufficiently aware of the longer term implications. For example, the genotypes now trumpeted as 'scrapie resistant' (and likely to form the basis of many new breeding programmes in commercial flocks) may equally not be resistant, and may simply mask long-incubation scrapie. Of course, mutations also may arise which undermine the very assumptions of resistance upon which new breeding plans are based."
The NST SG, with links to a network of international expertise and opinion has maintained a dialogue with DEFRA policy makers and advisors.
The fact that it now makes a public call for caution speaks loudly on behalf of a threatened community - threatened, not by science itself, but by a brand of political expedience which represents less than the full picture - yet again!
Dec 28

New Year could mark end of foot and mouth
Telegraph

By Charles Clover, Environment Editor
BRITAIN could be declared free of foot and mouth disease from midnight on New Year's Eve. Tests on animals from the last four counties awaiting the all-clear will be reviewed on Monday, the Government said yesterday. There was optimism among farmers that they would at last be able to celebrate an end to a dreadful year. ............ Declaring the four "at risk" counties - Cumbria, North Yorkshire, Durham and Northumberland - free of the disease will only be the first step toward a recovery, however.
Blood testing will continue in badly hit areas until the Government is satisfied that the country is clear. Only then can the process begin of convincing others - most importantly the EU, which represents the bulk of the market for Britain's meat and livestock products.
Officials say it is likely that Britain will have to wait until May, however, for clearance from the OIE, the international animal health organisation, as key stages in testing and the lifting of restrictions will not be completed by its meeting in mid-January.
Exports to the EU of some animal products have already begun from disease-free areas and cattle markets are expected to open again in February, a year after they were closed.
The Government has said it will decide then which restrictions are to remain. It has indicated that it is unlikely to want a return to the unrestricted movement of sheep, but the unpopular 20-day restriction after an animal has moved to a farm could go. ................ John Thorley, of the National Sheep Association, said: "Even though there are problems, the resilience of the sheep producer is something that cannot be ignored. They are as tough as old boots."
Financial indicators suggest that farming has "bottomed out". Government figures predict a modest rise in livestock incomes this year and this is likely to carry through to the arable sector, which had one of the worst harvests in recent memory after a record rainfall in the autumn and winter of 2000.
Key factors for farmers this year will be the strength of the Euro - subsidies are tied to the euro, so they do better when the pound is weak. The strong pound over the past five years has been a significant contributor to the farming recession.
Another factor for dairy farmers will be whether the competition among milk processors continues. There have been City rumours of closures among suppliers to supermarkets because of overcapacity. This would relieve some of the downward pressure on milk prices, which has forced many dairy farmers to sell at less than it costs to produce.
Dec 28

Farmers split over foot and mouth cash
Telegraph

By Richard Savill (Filed: 27/12/2001)
................... "There are people whose stock was culled who are now driving around in new vehicles. Their farms have been upgraded as a result of the clean-up operation, with the renewal of buildings in some cases. The ultimate person who is laughing is the one who got full compensation but does not intend re-stocking, and may even sell his farm.
"If your neighbour has a brand new Range Rover and you have still got a 20-year-old Land Rover you are going to notice it. It must create bitterness."
Mr Hill urged the Government to give some compensation to those who had been forbidden to move their stock. He criticised Alun Michael, rural affairs minister, who was reported to have said that "the problem had gone away" and there was no need to compensate people who had been under restrictions. He added: "If he really does believe the problem has gone away he is in panto land." Mr Hill said the Government would have "saved a hell of a lot of animal lives and money if it had recognised on day one that it had a major problem. The images of the animals in the pyres are with us forever. I will never forget the sights and sounds of the countryside literally being bled to death."
Bob Parry, president of the Farmers' Union of Wales, said 2001 would go down as farming's worst year. There were 2,030 confirmed cases of foot and mouth in Britain with 4,017,000 cattle, sheep, pigs and goats slaughtered. The cost of controlling the disease is put at more than £2 billion.
Mr Parry said: "The emotional stress of witnessing generations of work destroyed in an instant has been too great for many farmers. Some have decided to call it a day and leave farming for good. Others have taken their own lives."
He criticised the Government for refusing to hold a full and open public inquiry. "The three inquiries announced by the Government did not go far enough," he said. "What is the point of an inquiry if it doesn't have the legal powers to force key witnesses to give evidence? I believe that a full public inquiry is the only way of getting at the truth, however difficult or embarrassing for individuals that truth may be."
A Defra spokesman said: "Statutory compensation was paid only for animals which have been slaughtered as a result of the outbreak or for animals which have been destroyed in order to prevent spread of the disease. There are no statutory provisions for compensating farmers who are unable to move their stock. In any case the Government does not compensate farmers or businesses for other indirect losses."
Dec 27

Vet shortage 'made slaughter worse'
The Times

BY VALERIE ELLIOTT, COUNTRYSIDE EDITOR
THOUSANDS of animals could have been saved from slaughter during the foot-and-mouth epidemic if the Government had had more vets to make essential checks on vulnerable farms. Jim Scudamore, the Government's Chief Veterinary Officer, admitted publicly for the first time yesterday that the controversial policy of killing all animals within 1.8 miles of an infected farm could have been prevented if there had been more vets available.
He also made clear that any future outbreaks would be dealt with by a specific plan for each county, depending on the nature of local farming.
Farmers must also take disease control and animal welfare more seriously, he said. Production subsidies could even be linked to a requirement for continuing training.
Mr Scudamore added that there had been differences, but "no slanging matches", between veterinary experts and scientific modellers about the contiguous cull. He said that the world's foot-and-mouth experts at the Institute of Animal Health - Alex Donaldson and Paul Kitching, who has since moved to a job abroad - had called for "intensive clinical surveillance and for vets to go back to farms regularly to check for disease". Mr Scudamore said: "We simply ran out of vets. In Cumbria I would have needed a vet to visit the same farm perhaps up to five times a day."
Many farmers were incensed that the Government insisted on the slaughter of healthy animals because they were on neighbouring farms.
Mr Scudamore pointed out, however, that animals had been killed on farms considered "dangerous contacts", usually neighbouring farms, without objection from most farmers. He accepted that there had been a problem with the presentation of the contiguous cull.
Latest figures from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) show that 1,232,277 animals were slaughtered as dangerous contacts, including animals killed on contiguous farms. The total number of animals killed was 4,017,000.
The contiguous cull was devised after the results obtained by three independent groups of disease experts who used mathematical models to show the likely shape of the epidemic. The scientific group, chaired by Professor David King, the Government's Chief Scientific Adviser, insisted that to halt the outbreak all animals on infected farms should be slaughtered within 24 hours and on contiguous farms within 48 hours.
Mr Scudamore said that he did not dissent from that view because all the models predicted the same scenario. "Comments that I am against models are untrue. Models have a very important role . . . But we must scrutinise the model and ensure the policy is deliverable and validated."
He defended the Animal Health Bill, about to be introduced in the Lords, which will limit a farmer's right of appeal against slaughter of animals in any disease outbreak, adding: "The most important thing is that it should not happen again."
Mr Scudamore, promoted to Director General Animal Health at Defra, added: "Vaccination remains an option, but it could still be ruled out. We need to look at the particular controls imposed on products from vaccinated animals. If we had vaccinated in Cumbria, for example, under current rules these animals would have had to stay in the county for one year."
He will now work closely with the nation's vets to ensure that the Government has a panel of experts to call up in any emergency.
Dec 27

Re: Let it be
Telegraph letter

Date: 27 December 2001 SIR - I see that Paul McCartney is using his (fading) popularity and the season of the year to tell the whole country that "the majority" of it is against foxhunting. I suggest that any poll of the whole population - and I would bet my mortgage on it - would produce the following result:
Instransigently for the ban: 10 per cent. Resolutely against the ban: 10 per cent. Couldn't care less: 80 per cent. The Government ought to be told to waste no more time on this question; there are better things to do.
From: Alan Shutt, York
Dec 27

Oscar Arias Speaks Out on Ecoagriculture in Folha de Sao Paulo
Future Harvest

A major theme of next year's World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg- - also known as Rio + 10 - will be the critical issue of poverty in conjunction with conservation. Where poor and hungry people have few options other than to encroach on the environment for a day's pay, conservation efforts will be stymied. Instead of working against each other, farmers and environmentalists need to work together to find farming methods that both produce more food and preserve the environment. Read more of Arias' view on http://www.futureharvest.org a global nonprofit organization that promotes research in agriculture and the environment
posted Dec 27

/

True leadership
Telegraph

(Filed: 26/12/2001)
THE Queen's Christmas Day broadcast was a masterpiece of its kind - moving but dignified, inclusive but culturally self-confident. The dramatic centrepiece was the expression of solidarity with the United States for the events of September 11, subtly reasserting the relationship with America as a cornerstone of British security. Such feelings of kinship were reaffirmed without qualification. ................... But the Queen's emphasis on greater understanding between "communities" was not solely denominational. It also referred to the need to bridge generational, geographical and cultural divides - particularly between the town and the hard-pressed countryside, whose distress has faded from the front pages in recent months but which remains a cruel reality for those who dwell in rural areas. The message was diplomatic, but unmistakeable.
Such skills should surprise nobody. The Sovereign quietly reminded us that this was the 50th such broadcast which she had delivered since succeeding her father in 1952. Rightly, this was a slow-burn start to an important year for her: the Palace is deliberately not overegging the Golden Jubilee, as John Major's government did initially with the D-Day celebrations in 1994, thus raising excessively high expectations of mass enthusiasm. Instead, it is hoping that such enthusiasm will rise gradually and organically, from the grassroots, after the fashion of the highly successful Silver Jubilee of 1977.
It is worth thinking of the changes over which she has reigned. When she assumed the throne, Churchill was in his final term as prime minister. He relished the role of taking her under his wing, much as Lord Melbourne had done with the young Queen Victoria.
Today, the Queen can teach the ephemeral politicians a thing or two. It is to her that many in this country instinctively turn for reassurance. Once more, she deserves our thanks.
Dec 26

Re: Game bird-shooting safaris
Telegraph letter

Date: 26 December 2001
SIR - It would seem that Defra has finally parted company with its trolley. A friend of mine recently requested a schedule of conditions for a licence to shoot game birds.
Schedule No 1(a) stated that: No person shall participate in a shoot if they have come in contact with cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, deer or elephants.
Further, under 1(b): They must not approach, handle or touch any of the above while participating in a shoot.
Life gets increasingly difficult, don't it?
From: Peter Duckworth, Marthwaite, Sedbergh
And ALSO

Re: Look to Defra
Telegraph

Date: 26 December 2001
SIR - The Government has the cure for the NHS in its grasp. It should transfer responsibility for running it to DEFRA and vice versa, with these results:
NHS: No waiting lists: all patients over 30 months culled; anyone in a family with an ill member will be regarded as dangerous contacts and culled; challenges will be decided by blood tests: if you have antibodies, you will be culled.
Defra: NHS funding will be utilised for a revitalised farming industry; all equipment will be provided free of charge by the Government; surplus funding will be given back to the Treasury for other uses.
From: Peter Greenhill, Cockermouth, Cumbria
Dec 26

Even Newer Muckspreader
Private Eye

Looking round for a last way to kick farmers in the teeth before the end of the year when they organised the biggest administrative shambles in British government history, ie the FMD fiasco, Mrs Beckett's officials came up with 'Operation Big Brother'. This is their brilliant wheeze to insist that every farmer in the country must buy a computer, to keep him (or her) in electronic touch with 'Control'. ie the Department for the Elimination of Farming and Rural Affairs. This will enable Control to dish out its latest orders to farmers on a daily basis, meanwhile requiring the farmers to report back to Control everything they do on the farm.
This comes hard on the heels of Big Sister 's earlier proposal, that all farms will in future must be licensed by the ministry, so that any farmer who in any way offends the officials can have his licence to stay in business withdrawn. This also of course comes from the government which has been rushing through its 'animal death bill', empowering Deathra officials to go onto any farm, to kill any animal they wish, including cats and dogs (but not goldfish), while making it a criminal offence for the farmer to question what they are up to. Such are just some of the spectacular recent initiatives launched by the minister whose contempt for farmers was summed up in her lip-curling comment at a recent farm show in Cornwall, "aren't events like this boring?".
In other words, these horrible little people bore me so much I am going to do everything I can to control and regulate them out of existence. Certainly by this measure she is doing a great job. How her performance is viewed by others, however, was highlighted when the Great Caravanner recently appeared in Brussels at a major international conference on foot-and-mouth organised by the Dutch government.
This was dominated by leading vets from various countries arguing that a catastrophe like that organised by Britain in 2001 must never happen again. There must be no more barbaric mass-slaughter. The only scientific, civilised way to deal with this virus is to vaccinate, as mankind now does for almost any virus you can think of, from polio to 'flu. Bernado Cané, Argentina's chief vet, explained how his country has been successfully using vaccination for 30 years and that it is completely safe both for animals and consumers. FH Pluimers, Holland's chief vet, explained how it is now perfectly possible to distinguish between animals that have been vaccinated and those which have been diseased, and that the EU must put vaccination top of its agenda in dealing with any future epidemic.
Up to her feet then rose a strange dinosaur, Mrs Beckett, seemingly unable to grasp a single word of what all these experts were saying. Vaccination would be very difficult, she said, because consumers would not want to eat the meat from vaccinated animals (she is clearly unaware that every supermarket in the country offers meat from animals which have been vaccinated up to 20 times). We have no guarantee that vaccination is safe for the animals, intoned Beckett. There are no tests to distinguish between animals that have been vaccinated and those which have had the disease. Brothers, Big Sister was a laughing stock. It was shameful to think that this sneering, antediluvian creature represented Britain to the rest of the world.
posted Dec 26

Outrages highlight need for faith, Queen tells nation
Ananova

............... In a downbeat television, radio and Internet broadcast, she acknowledged the past year had brought trials and disasters for many people.
The UK had been hit by floods as well as the foot-and-mouth epidemic, with devastating consequences.
"But whilst many of these events were of natural origin, it was the human conflicts and the wanton acts of crime and terror against fellow human beings which have so appalled us all," she said. "The terrorist outrages in the United States last September brought home to us the pain and grief of ordinary people the world over who find themselves innocently caught up in such evil."
The Queen concentrated on the importance of community and faith - be it Christian or Muslim - in the aftermath of September 11. She said: "During the following days we struggled to find ways of expressing our horror at what had happened. "As so often in our lives at times of tragedy - just as on occasions of celebration and thanksgiving - we look to the Church to bring us together as a nation or as a community in commemoration and tribute.
"It is to the Church that we turn to give meaning to these moments of intense human experience through prayer, symbol and ceremony.
"In these circumstances so many of us, whatever our religion, need our faith more than ever to sustain and guide us. Everyone of us needs to believe in the value of all that is good and honest; we need to let this belief drive and influence our actions. All the major faiths tell us to give support and hope to others in distress."
Dec 26

Legal query delays trial on GM farm protesters
Hoovers.com

Willie Morrison TEN anti-GM crop protesters accused of trespassing on a farm during sowing operations yesterday had their cases continued, at an interim hearing yesterday at Dingwall Sheriff Court
The cases were continued for counsel's opinion on the legality of their actions Five protesters, who had trial fixed for January 18, were allowed to continue their cases until January 31, along with a further quintet of campaigners All 10 hope that by then, Edinburgh advocate Michael Upton will have delivered an opinion on behalf of one of their number, Andrew Aikman, which the remainder also intend to use as a guideline for their defence
Defence agent David Hingston, representing Aikman, said he had sent a five-page letter to Mr Upton, asking urgently for guidance on some general and specific issues One specific question was that of lawfulness, hinging on whether the Crown must prove that the activity undertaken by farmer Jamie Grant in sowing GM crops was in itself lawful, and being carried out in conformity with European Commission directives, or whether lawfulness is assumed
Campaigners claim that nobody was present at Tullich Farm, Munlochy, where the trials were being carried out, to monitor planting, and that tractors were not being cleaned as they left the field, as required by directives on GM crop sowing A line of defence Aikman and his colleagues hope to argue is that they could not be acting unlawfully by interfering with an activity which was not in itself lawful ...............
Dec 26

Charles downs a pint
Craven Herald

PRINCE Charles enjoyed a pint in Craven as he visited the Craven Heifer in Stainforth. The Prince was launching a new initiative, the Pub's the Hub, to protect rural pubs which are disappearing fast. Landlord and landlady Mick and Debbie Prior also run a store and post office from the pub - and sell the Craven Herald. Earlier he had met farmers and businessmen at Skipton Auction Mart who told him of their experiences due to the foot and mouth crisis.
In his opening address, chairman of the auction mart Anthony Dean told Prince Charles how the past 10 months had been disastrous for the rural economy.
His Royal Highness expressed his sympathy. "I wish I could wave a magic wand to put things right," he said, adding how impressed he had been in the way people had coped. Speaking about the Dales where he has been a visitor for many years, he told the farmers there they were part of an "absolutely crucial tapestry" and he hoped they and the younger generations would carry on the farming traditions....
Dec 26

Ministers braced for criticism on foot-and-mouth
Financial Times

By Rosemary Bennett, Political Correspondent
Agriculture ministers are bracing themselves for a damning report from the National Audit Office over the billions of pounds of taxpayers' money used in dealing with the foot-and-mouth epidemic.
Senior figures at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs admit cost controls were "well down the list of priorities" in the rush to eradicate the disease. Costs escalated further when the armed forces were enlisted to help in the cull of millions of animals. "In a situation where you are trying to stop the disease spreading as quickly as possible, the cost plays second fiddle," said one government insider. "And once the army was involved there was little we could do to keep costs in check."
Ministers are comforting themselves that farmers affected by the disease and contractors who helped in the cull and clean-up operation are in for even more severe criticism from the NAO. They have already been accused of driving up the costs of compensation and fiddling figures when invoicing the government for their work. The NAO is sifting through hundreds of pieces of evidence collected from all parties over the past three months and intends to publish its findings next year. The Treasury has estimated the epidemic has cost taxpayers £2.7bn so far including £1.25bn in compensation to farmers who lost animals. In an attempt to curb costs once it was confident the disease was in abeyance, the government in July ordered a temporary halt to the clean-up of farms, which was costing £100,000 a piece. After a new system of cost checks was put in place the price dropped to an average of £36,000 a farm.
A review by accountants and surveyors revealed irregularities in invoices from contractors. Some companies were paying employees half the hourly rate while charging double time to Defra. Other contractors were charging high administration fees while others did not submit time sheets until ministers told them no cash would be forthcoming until the paperwork was in order.
Valuers look set to be criticised for conspiring with farmers to maximise compensation, although Defra will also be censured for failing to crack down on the practice. Evidence suggests a bidding war broke out between valuers as farmers, who were free to award the contract to the company of their choice, would give the work to the one making the most generous estimate.
In its report on the handling of foot-and-mouth disease, the NAO is examining contingency planning and how well-prepared government departments and agencies were for the crisis. It is also looking at the cost-effectiveness of action taken.
NAO staff said they would take into account the conditions under which the departments and agencies operated. The auditors would examine levels of compensation offered to farmers and whether adequate controls were taken against irregularities.
Dec 24

Riding to hounds with the usual suspects
Telegraph

(Filed: 24/12/2001) W F DEEDES witnesses the end of a year's exile for the Berwickshire Hounds and is issued with an official form, but no cherry brandy SNOW was falling as we left for the meet of the Berwickshire hounds at Abbey St Bathans, and a cutting wind was blowing across the Border hills; but that was not going to put off the followers. They had not been out for 10 months because of the foot and mouth epidemic, and the new Scottish Parliament is hellbent on making them all criminals as quickly as possible with Lord Watson's Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Bill. So time was short.
And long tradition will be ended, for hounds have been hunted in Berwickshire since before 1619. We passed the kennels on our way to Saturday's meet, where hounds had been making their own kind of music. They had noticed a couple of horse boxes, had reckoned it was to be a hunting day and were overjoyed to think that almost a year's exile from the hunting field had ended. What, I reflected, as we went on our way, will be the fate of these hounds when foxhunting becomes a criminal offence in Scotland? Household pets? It will be kinder to shoot them....
Dec 24

Shops hit by farms crisis enjoy festive sales boom
Observer

Consumers defy warnings of downturn
Ben Summerskilland and Sarah Ryle Sunday December 23, 2001
The Observer It is not only London and the south east which is enjoying an unexpected boom in the run-up to Christmas. Across the country, small businesses hit by the foot and mouth epidemic say they are enjoying a sales bonanza. Despite dire warnings of economic misery triggered by the 11 September terror attacks, consumers are fuelling a Christmas spending fiesta that experts predict will smash records. Hoteliers, restaurateurs and retailers across Britain have expressed delight at a sales surge in which Britons have defied the worldwide gloom by snapping up UK holidays, seasonal gifts and luxury goods. Small businesses are thriving as well as large chains. At the Nare Hotel in Truro, close to an area affected by foot and mouth, the managing director, Toby Ashworth, said: 'We've seen a dramatic increase in business since 11 September. People have decided not to fly abroad and they seem to be staying in Britain instead. Those who would take short breaks overseas are just thinking, "Why should I take the risk?"' The hotel's occupancy in October and November was up more than 30 per cent on 2000. 'Bookings are already good for the spring,' said Ashworth. 'They're coming mainly from British customers.' ...................
Britain is rare among the major economies in responding positively to the international economic uncertainty. Research published last week showed that, alongside France, ours was the only G7 country not in recession. The US economy shrank by 0.3 per cent in the third quarter of 2001 and the world economy in total has sunk into recession. 'There are reasons why British people remain immune to fears about terrorism,' said Philip Hodson of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy. 'Not only were we used to two world wars but we have lived with the IRA for 30 years. There is something about us which has always been phlegmatic. The Americans, on the other hand, lost their emotional virginity on 11 September. 'We also cope by underplaying things. We do not howl and shriek and go into excesses of bereavement.' ..........
Dec 24

Foot and mouth: the blunders
Sunday Times

Before the foot and mouth outbreak ravaged British farming, the government received a clear scientific warning of the danger. It failed to act. And after disaster struck, the decisions it made only increased and prolonged the crisis. Jonathan Leake reports
Five months before the worst disaster ever to hit British farming struck, John Ryan took the floor at a United Nations agriculture conference and delivered a stark message. Millions of animals were likely to die, the Irish veterinary scientist warned, and livestock farming was threatened with devastation. Foot and mouth disease (FMD) was certain to hit Europe, warned Ryan, and the impact could be worse than ever before.
The doomsaying could not have been blunter and yet, as a Sunday Times investigation into the FMD disaster reveals, the British authorities took no heed. And when the epidemic did strike, they were chronically unprepared and fatally disorganised.
As the disease finally peters out, the government has refused to hold an inquiry into the epidemic. If it did, it would reveal a catalogue of blunders: that the government had no up-to-date plan of action; that it did not even know where thousands of farms were; and that its handling of the crisis caused the epidemic to be at least a third bigger than it might have been.
The warnings were there at the conference in Bulgaria, where Ryan identified that a combination of intensified farming, increased animal movements and a virulent new strain meant the disease could spread with extraordinary rapidity.
The results of his study, he said, were so startling that he had repeated it. He had reached the same conclusion.
"FMD now presents a permanent threat of reintroduction to Europe," he said. "This is particularly apparent with the activities of the PanAsia type O strain."
That virus had been marching across the world, and the task of the conference was to assess the threat to Europe. Ryan was not the only concerned voice.
One of the the most significant came from Britain's Institute for Animal Health, which runs the world reference laboratory for foot and mouth at Pirbright, Surrey. Nick Knowles, a researcher, told how the strain had infected numerous countries that, like Britain, had been free of the disease for decades. The virus, Knowles concluded, was one of the most dangerous seen and "a major threat".
A few weeks later those warnings, along with a host of others from the meeting, landed on the desks of the chief veterinary officers of every European country. One recipient was Jim Scudamore, veterinary adviser to the British government.
What did the British authorities do in the face of such loud alarm bells? Scudamore read the reports and shelved them. "We knew that FMD was spreading but at the time we felt we had already taken all the right precautions," he said on Friday. "It is easy to be wise with hindsight, but at the time there seemed no other measures that we could have taken." .....(full article)
Dec 23

Lambs bring hope for troubled farmer
Ananova

The unexpected birth of two new lambs has brought hope after a "nightmare" year for the owner of a flock of Britain's oldest sheep breeds. Smallholder Moira Linaker has spent 2001 battling the authorities and worrying about foot-and-mouth disease.
It has ravaged the countryside around her Cumbrian farm where she keeps 17 rare Ryland sheep and 23 crossbreeds. The 60-year-old said the birth of two lambs was "symbolic" of new hope after so many died this year.
Their arrival, however, was a complete surprise to the experienced breeder who fought the government to keep her pets alive as millions of animals were culled in the wake of the virus outbreak. Mrs Linaker said: "I don't know if it was an immaculate conception or what." She said the mother and father of the newborns - crossbreed Suffolks - had been kept separately but that the ewe probably leapt a fence to get to the ram. "It's so unusual because farmers here in Cumbria haven't been able to put their rams with their ewes because of movement restrictions," she explained.
Mrs Linaker has received support from around the world backing her stand to protect her flock from being culled.
She barricaded herself on her farm to prevent ministry officials gaining access, and stayed at home for months, fearing her sheep may be slaughtered in her absence if she left.
Dec 23

Crisis-hit farmers say big thank-you
Lancashire Telegraph

LANCASHIRE'S NFU chairman has thanked the public for its "amazing" support and patience during the foot and mouth crisis.
Ken Baxter said: "Farmers have had a horrendous year as a result of foot and mouth and I would like to thank the public for its support and understanding throughout the crisis, which has been amazing. Farmers have really appreciated all the messages of support that they have received.
"The closing of footpaths was a necessary requirement when the disease was at its height and the way that everyone adhered to the closure was fantastic. "As a result of disease control restrictions some footpaths still remain closed and if you come across a 'footpath closed' please do not proceed. It is hoped that the remaining closed footpaths will be open by the spring."
He added: "I urge consumers where possible to support local farm shops and farmers' markets which will help local farmers and the rural economy greatly. Also, to look for the Little Red Tractor logo in the supermarket to ensure that you are buying British" "Farmers face a challenging year ahead and we will be continuing to lobby the Government over the illegal imports of meat and plants into this country. "Nobody wants to go through another year like 2001." Last week, farming union bosses warned that despite the county being declared foot and mouth free, conditions are still not back to normal.
Even though the area has been declared officially free of the disease, farmers are still facing restrictions on their work. To transport livestock, farmers must first get a licence from their local trading standards office, and when animals are moved onto a farm, there is a 21-day movement stand-still in place. The stand-still means that once an animal is taken onto a farm, no animals can leave that farm for 21 days. Thomas Binns, vice chairman of the Lancashire NFU, who runs a farm in Clitheroe, said: "The Lancashire NFU has fought long and hard to speed up the process of getting restrictions lifted. But we are still under movement licensing regimes. "There is still a bureaucratic process in place. Just because the area is foot and mouth free doesn't mean that everything Is back to normal. There is still a long way to go before things are normal.
"Lancashire will be a controlled area until the foreseeable future, until the rest of the country is recognised as foot and mouth free." During the epidemic the county had more than 50 cases of foot and mouth, the last on June 28. A spokesman for DEFRA said: "Until the country is foot and mouth free, certain restrictions will remain in place. Then the final decision will be made by the chief veterinary officer.
"But at the moment the country is not free from foot and mouth. Neighbouring county Cumbria is still at risk, and will be until they have had 90 days without a case. The last thing we want is to take an unnecessary risk."
Dec 23

Ministers rebuked for shunning countryside
Sunday Telegraph

By Joe Murphy, Political Editor
A LEAKED memo by a senior civil servant has accused ministers of shunning the countryside and being unwilling to meet wealthy landowners. The document says that ministers are sending out "mixed signals" and should go to country shows and "be seen to enjoy at least some" countryside activities. It was written by Henry Cleary, in charge of the rural division at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. His criticisms will embarrass Margaret Beckett, the Cabinet minister in charge. The memo, dated November 14 and sent to Brian Bender, the Permanent Secretary, warns: "Creating Defra is a real credit but, as you know, it will have to convince a sceptical constituency.
"I still detect mixed signals on whether ministers are really prepared to be seen alongside the full range of rural stakeholders and, in particular, the large landowners who are still key players. "Some of rural England remains largely feudal and that is often popular and unlikely to change in the short term." He added: "If we want to be seen to understand the countryside, we need to be talking and working publicly with major landowners. "That means, for example, not being wary of attending the Game Fair, and being seen to enjoy at least some of the rural crafts that would feature in a Country Life article." The Game Fair is one of the largest annual countryside events. In July, 120,000 people attended, including the Prince of Wales, making it the biggest event since the foot and mouth crisis. Mrs Beckett and other ministers were invited but stayed away. ............
Peter Ainsworth, the Conservative spokesman, said: "Rural people and farmers have been saying for years that metropolitan Labour do not know or care about the countryside. Now even their own civil servants are saying it."
Dec 23

Upstairs, downstairs
Sunday Telegraph

The National Trust is in a state of upheaval, with a new director general and a shift of emphasis from stately homes to workhouses. Sandy Mitchell questions whether it has got its priorities right
..................I chewed this over after our meeting and began to suspect that part of her vision is for the Trust to become some kind of social service. She certainly does not put fun at the top of the list. When I told her all her plans sounded terribly earnest, she snapped back, 'It's a serious organisation and should have a serious purpose.' And yet floodlit concerts, and fancy-dress picnics with bands and sideshows are the kind of events that have invigorated Trust houses in the past decade, drawing in visitors who would otherwise have thought the Trust too stuffy.
She seems uneasy, too, with the fact that the Trust appeals to members' social aspirations. A staffer at national headquarters tells me that when it comes to ensuring a big turnout for lectures, 'the bigger the title, the better the tickets sell'. The Duchess of Devonshire's talk on the gardens at Chatsworth was the fastest seller of all time. But Reynolds is said to have been queasy about the number of titles among the speakers for the coming lecture season.
How are the Trust's loyal supporters likely to react to this attitude? The Trust is kept afloat by by the annual subscriptions of its 2.7 million members and they are conservative to the bone. Sir Angus Stirling, the last director general but one, recalls what stirred them up in his time was an outbreak of nude bathing in Cornwall. 'It caused a huge amount of fury.' The editor of the Trust's quarterly magazine gets hundreds of letters from readers after each issue. Spelling mistakes provoke the greatest response.
It is safe to conclude that the members do not pay their £31 subscription, and keep paying it year after year, because they burn with Fiona Reynolds's white-hot zeal for social inclusion. They join to enjoy access to the greatest houses, gardens and art collections in England, and to keep them the way they are. The Trust has started commissioning regular market research into its members' opinions, so it knows this is the case. Already, the chairman of one of the organisations many country members' associations has warned, 'If members see what they regard as "their" houses being devalued in any way, they certainly won't be slow in making their feelings known.'
The Blairite agenda can be seen in the new acquisitions. Last month the Trust opened a cottage in Worcestershire that belonged to the Chartists, the workers' rights movement of the 1830s. It gives 'a unique insight into the rigours of mid-19th-century working-class life,' says the press release. Early next year, the Trust promises its newly restored Victorian workhouse in Nottinghamshire 'will reveal the story of poverty from the 1800s to the present day'. Though these properties were bought before Reynolds arrived at the Trust, she says future acquisitions are likely to 'follow this logic'.
Given the patrician, nostalgic appeal of the great stately homes, it is no surprise that they are in danger of being snubbed in the National Trust's new puritan era. ...............
What the Trust should be doing in its new era is rattling tins to enable it to buy the best upland farms so it can keep farmers on the land. Tim Yeo, the Tory MP and former countryside minister, leaps at this idea: 'It's a huge opportunity and would make a wonderful new crusade.'
Surely keeping these landsapes alive and enhancing public access to them is what the Trust's founding Act of Parliament intended when it laid down that the Trust was to 'preserve places of historic interest or natural beauty permanently for the benefit of the nation'. I suspect this is more likely to give the Trust a new sense of purpose than the director general's witterings about creating a 'wider interpretation of heritage'.
Dec 23

BBC's silent majority
Sunday Telegraph (Booker's Notebook)

ROBIN PAGE, the Cambridgeshire farmer, conservationist, pro-hunting campaigner and coiner of the popular term "the Brussels Broadcasting Corporation", observes that when the BBC reports anything to do with hunting these days, such as its recent resumption after foot and mouth, the news items often seem to find it necessary to add, quite irrelevantly, that according to a recent opinion poll 70 per cent of the British people are opposed to "hunting with dogs". Isn't it curious, asks Mr Page, that whenever the BBC puts out news reports relating to the single currency, it somehow never feels the same need to mention the fact that, according to recent opinion polls, 70 per cent of the British people are opposed to joining the euro?
Dec 23

Grounded
Telegraph

Foot and mouth means Father Christmas will be unable to use his reindeer to help with deliveries in England and Wales this year, says Robin Page
OH dear, poor Father Christmas. This festive season is going to be a very trying time for the old boy. This year, he has to cover the whole of England and Wales by bike. Everywhere else, he is free to fly with his beloved reindeer and sleigh; but here in England, he has been grounded.
In the cold: Alan and Tilly Smith feed the reindeer that Father Christmas will use for deliveries this year, but only in Scotland Every year for the British leg of his deliveries, Father Christmas and his friend, Rudolph, use the animals at the Reindeer Centre at Glenmore, situated at the foot of the Cairngorm Mountains. There, Alan and Tilly Smith look after Britain's only herd of almost wild, breeding reindeer. But for foot and mouth restrictions, those animals would set off once again to add their brand of Christmas magic of Christmas to thousands of children.
In previous years, excited children have flocked to see the teams of reindeer as they visited all parts of Britain, from the portals of Harrods to the shopping centre at Wigan, via the old cowshed in my farmyard.
Whereas the Scottish Agricultural Department has given Rudolph special dispensation to travel around Scotland for the Christmas season, Defra evidently believes that reindeer can spread foot and mouth - an interesting fact in itself. It is true that reindeer have cloven hooves and so can get foot and mouth, in theory, yet, whenever I have spoken to Defra about the possibility of wild deer spreading foot and mouth during the current epidemic, it has dismissed the idea. So if wild deer in Devon and Cumbria have played no part in spreading foot and mouth, and only a proper public inquiry will tell us otherwise, why does Defra believe that strictly supervised and monitored reindeer will now spread foot and mouth? The truth is that for most of the year, the Cairngorm reindeer live almost as wild animals in two herds: one in the Cairngorms and one in the nearby Cromdale Hills. Because of their specialised diet of heather, mosses and lichens, they do not share their grazing and browsing with other animals, apart from wild red deer and roe.
Once with Father Christmas, they ride in comfort and luxury in roomy lorries and their chances of infection are precisely nil. When stopping for rest and recreation at our farm, the reindeer do not mix with our cattle and in any case, we are in a disease-free area. Yet according to Defra, the Cairngorm reindeer would have to travel in a disinfected and sealed lorry for every journey. The seal could be broken only by a vet and once one journey had been undertaken, the animals would have to be in quarantine for 21 days. Consequently, if the reindeer visited Harrods, they would have to be housed at Harrods for 21 days and, of course, moss and heather do not grow in Central London.
Normally, the visits of Father Christmas and his reindeer to shopping centres in Britain supply Tilly and Alan with their main source of income, which allows them to maintain the herd for the rest of the year. Determined not to be outdone by Defra, Alan, Tilly and their reindeer can be seen at the Cairngorm Reindeer Centre from 10am-5pm until tomorrow, at a special event called Christmas Fun (admission £3). Call 01479 861228 for details. Father Christmas will be on duty too, because he will be training for his great bike ride early in the morning. Rudolph and his friends wish everybody a Happy Christmas, wherever you are.
Dec 22

French farmer sentenced to jail
Yahoo news

MONTPELLIER, France (AP) - A judge sentenced militant French farmer José Bové to six months in jail Thursday, but not until riot police fired tear gas to force more than 100 of his supporters from the courthouse. The appeals court convicted Bove, a leading anti-globalization activist, for his role in destroying a genetically modified rice field in southern France in 1999. After the sentencing, a defiant Bové vowed to continue the fight against genetically modified crops. He said he would lodge his second appeal in the case, this time to France's highest court, the Court of Cassation - a move that could keep him out of jail for up to a year. Under French law, defendants don't have to begin serving sentences until all appeals are exhausted.
"Today they've tried to weaken our fight,'' Bové told reporters at the courthouse, in this southern French town. "For us, this combat will not stop ... and if they put us in prison ... the battle will continue from behind bars.''
Opposition to genetically modified foods has been very strong in France. Bove's Farmers Confederation has made the issue one of their causes, threatening to uproot experimental fields of modified food if the government doesn't destroy them.
Dec 22

Farmers hit by European curb on use of fertiliser
Telegraph

By Charles Clover, Environment Editor
FARMERS, still recovering from one of the worst years in living memory, suffered another blow yesterday when limits were announced on the amount of manure and fertiliser that can be used on the land.
The Government said it was proposing to extend the amount of the country protected as a nitrate vulnerable zone - intended to reduce pollution of drinking water, rivers, streams and coastal waters - from 8 per cent to either 80 per cent or 100 per cent of the total area of England. Similar proposals are expected soon for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Michael Meacher, the Environment Minister, said that the restrictions had been forced on the Government by the European Court which ruled last year that Britain had not fully implemented the 1991 EC Nitrates Directive in designating 8 per cent of the country a nitrate vulnerable zone to protect drinking water, but not the environment.
He said fines levied for non-compliance were currently running at £50 million a year, leaving the Government little option but to announce measures by this week.
The imposition of new nitrate sensitive areas over most of the country is likely to hit livestock farmers hardest because of the requirement that those who would usually spray slurry or manure on the land may not do so for two or three months each autumn - and will have to have secure storage facilities to prevent leaks into water courses during that time.
The cost of the measures in England alone has been estimated at £31 million for the whole country and £23 million if the zones focus just on those areas draining into waters with already high nitrate concentrations or those where wild plants or animals could be adversely affected by algal blooms.
posted Dec 22

Nitrate curbs planned for all of UK'
Farmers Weekly

By FWi staff PROPOSALS to limit the amount of fertiliser and manure farmers can use are in the pipeline for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, reports the Daily Telegraph. It follows plans, revealed by the government on Thursday (20 December), to designate most or even all of England as a Nitrate Vulnerable Zone.
Environment minister Michael Meacher said restrictions were necessary because the European Court had ruled Britain is not implementing the 1991 Water Directive fully. Fines levied for non-compliance were currently running at £50 million a year, leaving the government with little choice but to introduce measures, he said.
The paper reports the cost of implementing the new controls for the whole country could be as much as £31 million. Even if controls are only implemented in those areas where waters already have a high nitrate concentration the cost could be £23m.
Dec 22

MOST farmers will want to forget 2001 as the worst in living memory
Farmers' Weekly

Queen's hatmaker lays off staff after foot and mouth
Telegraph

TONY BLAIR should think twice before assuming that Conservative backwoodsmen alone are affected by his Fawlty-esque handling of rural affairs. The Queen's official hatmaker, Patey's of London, has now had to dismiss 12 of its staff of 20, following a disastrous foot and mouth affected year, in which its turnover fell by 50 per cent.
Trevor Campan, who owns the 200-year-old business, which is based in Elephant and Castle, blames his woes on the ban on hunting that followed foot and mouth. "We make most of our money by supplying bespoke riding caps to the hunts," he explains, "so their enforced inaction for the last year has had a drastic effect on us. What has happened recently, and the way that Labour has handled the whole issue of hunting, makes me very angry indeed. "Not only did they make a total mess of dealing with foot and mouth, but, given half a chance, they will ban hunting for ever. If they go through with that, I won't have a viable business left. We're not toffs - we're just ordinary Londoners trying to earn a living.
"Surely it's Tony Blair's job to encourage the creation of jobs, rather than to destroy them. If he isn't aware that he'll destroy firms like us with a hunting ban, then he should be. Having to lay off staff that I've trained to become good at their jobs is a bitter pill to swallow." Simon Hart, the director of the Campaign for Hunting, says: "This isn't surprising: the Government's own inquiry illustrated that many small urban businesses will suffer badly from a hunting ban."
Dec 21

Farms face bid to reduce nitrate peril
Ananova

Farmers will have to cut down on crop fertiliser and the amount of animal manure used on the land under a Government bid to curb nitrate pollution. Nitrates end up in rivers and streams, groundwater and coastal waters, damaging fresh and seawater ecosystems. Now the UK is under threat of action from the European Court of Justice which says the Government has not fully met a 1991 EC Nitrates Directive.
The Government consultation paper proposes two options for carrying out the Directive: applying measures across the whole of England, which would provide a more level playing field for market competition between farmers, or designation of about 80% of England, focusing just on those areas draining into waters with high nitrate concentrations and/or areas where the balance of aquatic organisms or water quality is or may be affected....
Dec 20

'NVZ controls will mean hefty bills'
Farmers' Weekly

PLANS to designate all of England as a Nitrate Vulnerable Zone (NVZ) will have serious financial and practical implications, farmers' leaders have warned.
Dec 20

The value of Britain's landowners
Times letter

FROM THE PRESIDENT OF THE COUNTRY LAND AND BUSINESS ASSOCIATION
Sir, In Graham Harvey's uncritical review of Kevin Cahill's book, Who Owns Britain? (Times 2, December 12), he inveighs against the pattern of ownership of land in Britain. There are now vastly more landowners than ever before and their numbers are still increasing. Most of our 45,000 members own less than 100 acres. At present 29 per cent of rural land coming on to the market is being bought by newcomers to the rural economy.
Farming can be carried out relatively extensively only because it is innately low-cost, low-return. That is why a farmer, even the smallest, needs to occupy more land than does a householder, but Mr Cahill sees this as being somehow unfair.
The concentration of land ownership is cited as the cause of the high price of development land. Mr Cahill asserts that landowners are holding land back from the market, thus driving up prices. In fact it is all levels of government that are responsible. Very little land is granted planning permission; it is this which creates an unnatural scarcity.
Mr Cahill also suggests that the reform of land ownership in Ireland over the past century has contributed much to its current economic prosperity. Eire's membership of the EU, of which it has been a major beneficiary, has rather more to do with its economic growth than does a long-forgotten land reform process.
The CLA has existed since 1907 to protect individual property rights and promote the highest quality of land stewardship. There is a huge love for our rural landscape, both among UK citizens and visitors, something of which owners large and small can be proud.
Yours faithfully, EDWARD GREENWELL,
President, Country Land and Business Association, 16 Belgrave Square, SW1X 8PQ. December 13.
Dec 20

Farmers' plea to Rural Rebels
BBC

Scotland's farming leaders have called for talks with the controversial campaign group Rural Rebels amid fears that its tactics could damage countryside causes. The National Farmers Union of Scotland (NFUS) expressed doubts over the group's strategy of causing disruption and said these measures may be too simplistic and counter productive. The union said it was important that the group did not drive a wedge between rural and urban communities and hoped talks would clear up any areas of concern.
More than 20 organisations are reported to have joined the broadband Rural Rebels campaign in a bid to secure, what they say, is a better deal for the countryside from politicians. The umbrella group has used a variety of tactics to publicise demands for an independent public inquiry into foot-and-mouth disease, the right to peaceful country pursuits and the right to educate country children in country schools.
So far, its members have used slow drive tactics to disrupt traffic on the Forth Road Bridge and the cross-border M74 motorway that links Scotland and England. On Sunday, more than 12,000 protestors took to the streets of Edinburgh to demonstrate their anger at what they said has been an attack on the countryside by the Scottish Parliament. Protests have continued this week, including unique carol singing outside the first minister's official residence, Bute House.
To date all of the demonstrations have been within the law ..... Mr Walker said that he now intends to seek talks with the group in the new year to stress the importance of not driving a wedge between rural and urban communities.
Despite the union's concerns the Rural Rebels are content that their tactics have made politicians and the media sit up and take notice. ....
Dec 20

Disease-hit farm families helped by police
BBC

South West police officers who stood guard at the gates of foot-and-mouth infected farms have given part of their pay to communities hardest hit by the disease. At the peak of the crisis, 120 officers from Devon and Cornwall Police were stationed at 70 sites across both counties.
Officers from across the force were given the opportunity to contribute a special fund with a direct debit scheme being set up for them to pledge £10 from their wages. In all, nearly £7,000 has been raised so far. A lot of officers were quite shocked by the crisis. It wasn't just the death of the animals, but also the total isolation of the farming communities
The money will be passed on to farmers whose businesses were devastated by the crisis. One of the hardest hit places was West Devon, where there were almost 100 outbreaks.
At Devon County Council's recent public inquiry into the disease, Devon and Cornwall Police chief constable Sir John Evans described how his officers acted as counsellors to farmers who were cut off by movement restrictions. He said in a few cases the officers removed shotguns from depressed farmers who held licences because of their concern.
Officers were also stationed at every burning pit, pyre and disease-affected farm during the crisis.
Police were often the only point of contact between farmers' families who were isolated on their land because of movement restrictions by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the outside world. They passed on mail, food and other essentials. This led officers in the area to organise the appeal to help farmers.
Some of the money raised will be handed over on Wednesday at a ceremony at Highampton Primary School. The town of Highampton was one of the worst affected by the crisis. Chief inspector Barry Frost said: "A lot of officers were quite shocked by the crisis. "It wasn't just the death of the animals, but also the total isolation of the farming communities and the fact that many farmers and children were completely desperate. "Officers felt so helpless and felt they really wanted to do something to help." Police are also sending Christmas cards to those who were affected by the crisis. ......... The charity the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution (RABI) took many calls from South West farmers during the outbreak. Its helpline, which was receiving two calls a day in January, found itself having to deal with 300 calls a day at the height of the crisis in April and May. RABI spokesman Nicholas Bond said of the donations to farmers: "It's wonderful. They were obviously moved by what they had seen. It must have brought home what farmers were going through. "People who see what's happened understand what's going on."
Dec 20

Report of mad cow disease case in Bosnia was actually rabies
Hoover's News

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) _ A reported case of mad cow disease in Bosnia turned out Wednesday to be rabies diagnosed on an animal at a farm in the south of the country. ......
Dec 20

Owners of BSE farm will not continue to raise cattle
Heksinki News

By Tapio Mainio in Oulunsalo
Anguish was in the air at the Kdrsdmdki farm which produced Finland's first known case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy when Reijo Flinck, the local representative of the Central Union of Agricultural Producers and Forest Owners (MTK), visited the farm on Sunday.
Three middle-aged siblings, two brothers and one sister, manage the 30-hectare farm that they inherited from their parents. The other brother runs the farm, but his movements are currently impaired by a serious illness that was diagnosed some time ago.
"The work of generations was destroyed in one blow. On Friday morning they still milked the cows, and in the evening, the authorities slaughtered the entire cattle, twenty heads each of dairy cattle and beef cattle. They were unable to comprehend that the disease was discovered in one of their cows", Flinck recounted.
Dec 20

Meatpackers shun aging dairy cows as BSE risks
Asahi.com

(Japan)
More than 20 percent of the nation's packing plants now refuse to take in dairy cows past their prime out of concern for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) infection, according to a poll conducted by The Asahi Shimbun. Their concerns could affect the fate of about 300,000 cows past their peak milk-producing age that are processed annually nationwide-about 20 percent of all the cattle slaughtered for meat in Japan. The three confirmed cases of BSE, known as mad cow disease, all involved Holstein dairy cows born in 1996. Among the 167 meat processors that responded to The Asahi Shimbun's questions on the issue, 37 packers, or 22 percent, said they no longer accepted old or non-productive dairy cows.
They said that the reputation of their plants would be damaged if BSE-infected cows were found there. Beyond that, they said, confirmation of a mad cow case would force them to halt production and would affect their processing of other cattle and hogs. Nineteen other meatpackers said one reason they do not take old cows is that farmers do not bring them in since prices have dropped, or because they are also concerned that their herds may be found to be infected with BSE. ............ The effect of such rejection is already having a serious impact on dairy farmers. One Tochigi Prefecture farmer said he has three old dairy cows, but the market has dropped. "Such a cow used to sell for 50,000 to 60,000 yen,'' he said. "But now they bring in only about 10,000 yen. With about 20,000 yen expenses for processing and hauling, we lose more than we gain.'' A spokesman for the National Federation of Dairy Co-operative Associations said some kind of relief is needed for farmers stuck with cows that don't give much milk and cannot be slaughtered as beef.
Most of the meat from slaughtered dairy cows is ground or used in processed foods. The Japan Meat Processors Association said most food processors no longer use domestically produced meat from slaughtered dairy cows.
Dec 20

Tyson Foods executives indicted
Daily News Yahoo

WASHINGTON (AP) - A federal grand jury in Tennessee indicted executives and managers of Tyson Foods Inc. on charges of conspiring to smuggle illegal aliens to the company's poultry processing plants, the Justice Department (news - web sites) said Wednesday. A 36-count indictment unsealed Wednesday said Tyson's managers tolerated the hiring of illegal aliens to meet production goals and cut costs.
The company aided the immigrants by obtaining false documents so they could work at Tyson poultry processing plants "under the false pretense of being legally employable,'' the department said, quoting the indictment. Undercover agents working for Tysons were directed by company managers to pick up immigrants at the U.S.-Mexican border and transport them to processing plants in Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, Indiana, Missouri and Arkansas, the indictment said.
The undercover agents were paid by Tysons for "recruitment'' expenses, it said. The case comes in the wake of a border control crackdown following the Sept. 11 attacks.
"This case represents the first time the INS has taken action against a company of Tyson's magnitude,'' said James Ziglar, commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service. The indictment charges two corporate executives, Robert Hash, vice president of the retail fresh division, and Gerald Lankford, former human resources manager. Four other former managers are also named. The indictment is the result of a 21/2-year undercover investigation by the INS. Fifteen plants were implicated in the conspiracy.

US farm subsidy sparks fresh row
BBC


The Republican bill was backed by the White House Fresh moves to offer subsidies to US farmers have reunited the debate over whether this domestic aid contravenes the spirit of world trade rules. Two bills - one Democratic and one Republican - have both become bogged down in the US Senate. Farm groups fear that if a law isn't put in place before Christmas, it will be dropped as the money is spent elsewhere.
Both bills increase spending on farm programmes and offer some form of subsidy. Late on Tuesday, the US Senate rejected a Republican farm bill that would have created subsidised savings accounts for farmers.
Mike Espy questions whether the bill is hypocritical The Republican bill was an alternative to a Democratic bill, which raised crop subsidies linked to falling commodity prices. The two bills would increase spending on farm programs by nearly 80% over the next years and authorise farm and nutrition programme until 2006.
Mike Espy, secretary for agriculture when the US pledged to roll back subsidies in the 1990s, said: "It is a bit hypocritical, in light of the US position advocated over the past few years in the WTO and it is quite embarrassing, I believe, to the administration....President Bush has not offered its support formally for this effort." "You have a clash domestically here between the executive branch, which is generally more tuned to international mandates...against more domestic emphasis."
Dec 19

Defra gains 'science supremo'
Farmers Weekly

By Adrienne Francis
THE appointment of a government chief scientific advisor on rural affairs creates a "powerful new post", says the Financial Times. Howard Dalton will take up the role at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) in March. The post will "boost expertise" at the department, which has suffered a "series of scientific misfortunes" handling animal diseases, the FT says. Civil servants have faced criticism over foot-and-mouth and experiments in which scientists mistakenly tested cattle instead of sheep brains for BSE. Professor Dalton, former head of biological sciences at Warwick University, advocates better communication between scientists and the public. Government chief scientist David King said Professor Dalton would be the first of a "new breed of scientific supremos " to improve input to ministries. Rural Affairs Secretary Margaret Beckett said it was vital that Defra's policies were based on the best available scientific evidence. Professor Dalton would "raise the profile of science", she said after an announcement about the appointment on Tuesday (18 December).
Dec 19

BSE and bacteria
The Times

FROM DR MILTON WAINWRIGHT
Sir, The suggestion by Magnus Linklater (Comment, December 13) that we should promote research on bacteria as a cause of BSE is timely. Bacteria, we now know, cause stomach ulcers and have also recently been linked with diseases usually attributed to other sources, such as cancer, Crohn's disease, heart attacks, irritable bowel syndrome and even sciatica; killer diseases like TB are also making a comeback.
As a result one might expect that microbiology, the science in which bacteria are studied, would be thriving in our universities. Surprisingly, however, the number of students applying for general microbiology courses is declining, while medical microbiology has been described as being at the "bottom of the pile for medical students". In addition, much basic research on micro-organisms and epidemiology is unfashionable and is no longer funded.
In the light of its importance, it would seem perverse that our schools and universities should apparently idly stand by while this decline continues.
Yours faithfully,
MILTON WAINWRIGHT, Department of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, University of Sheffield, Sheffield S10 2TN. (See warmwell BSE/CJD page)
Dec 19

Science czar to oversee farming
The Times

BY MARK HENDERSON, SCIENCE CORRESPONDENT
A LEADING scientist has been appointed to oversee a rescue of the abysmal agricultural research record that contributed to the BSE and foot-and-mouth crises. Howard Dalton, Professor of Biological Sciences at Warwick University, who has been appointed by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), will start work in March, with a remit to review every aspect of the department's scientific activity, including global warming, genetically modified crops and animal diseases.
Ministers hope that the appointment will prevent a repeat of a string of fiascos that earned Defra's predecessor, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Maff), a reputation as Whitehall's scientific disaster area.
Professor Dalton will sit on Defra's management board and report to Margaret Beckett, the Secretary of State, and Brian Bender, the Permanent Secretary. The role of Defra chief scientist, presently held by David Shannon, who is retiring, was being "considerably beefed up in status", a spokesman said. Professor Dalton, a Fellow of the Royal Society since 1993, plans to ensure that better scientific advice is delivered more openly.
Dec 19

Virus boosted farmers' public image
Farmers' Weekly

FOOT-and-mouth disease has created empathy for farmers among consumers, according to research from consultants Promar International.
Consumer attitudes to farming are changing, and farmers are not seen as the "bad boys of the food chain", as some people like to claim. Research executive Marsha Burkwood, who carried out the study, said that consumers do believe that farmers are credible. Far from increasing the poor image of food and farming, foot-and-mouth had created empathy among shoppers. "Consumers are far more cynical about the supermarkets' motivation, believing multiple retailers hold the consumer low on their list of priorities."
The report - Food on My Table - says growing support for British farmers is leading some shoppers to change their shopping habits. A section of consumers are starting to purchase more food from independent traders, farmers' markets and local butchers.
There is a desire to support such traders as they are perceived to offer good-quality fresh produce that is not mass-produced, claims the report.
Dec 19

Polio doses 'very unlikely' to be a risk for past recipients
The Times

BY NIGEL HAWKES, HEALTH EDITOR ABOUT a third of the oral polio vaccine used in Britain between 1986 - when BSE first appeared - and 2000 was produced with the aid of material from British cows. The vaccine was grown using foetal calf serum, a nutritious culture medium from herds that might have been contaminated with BSE. The batches of vaccine were made by Wellcome until 1991 and subsequently by Medeva. There is no evidence that they were contaminated, but the possibility exists.
The Government's Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee (SEAC) says that up to 60 million doses of the vaccine were produced from cultures that might have been contaminated. Millions of people - about a third of all those vaccinated since BSE appeared - have been given the potentially contaminated vaccine.
If the 113 people who have contracted vCJD are typical of the public as a whole, it would be expected that about 30 to 40 of them would have been recipients of the suspect vaccine.
The fact that two have actually been found to have had it cannot, therefore, be seen to be surprising or significant. They lived in the same area and were vaccinated at the same time, in 1994, so it is not surprising that the vaccine came from the same batch. The finding would become significant only if there was something special about this particular batch that made it more likely to have been contaminated. SEAC looked at the proportion of the vCJD victims who had been given the Wellcome/Medeva vaccine, and found it was no higher than in the general public.
............
CJD risk from vaccine dismissed
Health experts have described the risk of people contracting variant CJD from oral polio vaccine as "incalculably small". Two people who developed the illness had been given vaccine from the same batch. But the independent Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee (Seac) says there is no reason to believe that the vaccine used, which was withdrawn last year, or the current vaccine, pose a risk to the public.
Dec 18

Pig farmer's denial in records case
Telegraph

A PIG farmer yesterday denied failing to keep records of animal movements from his farm just prior to the outbreak of foot and mouth disease. Alan Clement, 58, appeared before Bishop Auckland magistrates, Co Durham, on 14 charges of failing to keep and failing to produce legal documents proving that he legitimately moved pigs from his farm to a nearby abattoir.
Clement, of West Craig Lea, Roddymoor, near Crook, was making his second court appearance. On the first occasion he contested a decision to convict him in his absence of breaching movement regulations last Dec 15-22.
Magistrates were previously told that Clement had declined to co-operate with trading standards officers throughout their investigation and he did not appear for any of the early court hearings. Clement was told in September that he would be given one last chance to give his version of events before sentence was passed. He did not attend and was convicted in his absence. Three weeks ago the Bench at Newton Aycliffe magistrates' court decided to exercise powers under Section 142 of the Magistrates Courts' Act which allows the court to the evidence again. The magistrates at Bishop Auckland will hear the case on March 4.
Dec 18

Farmers face hardship
The is Cheshire

BIDDULPH MP Charlotte Atkins has spoken about the continuing damage from foot and mouth disease for farmers. "Even though Staffordshire became officially free of foot and mouth in October there is still great concern about the impact of the disease on the county," Mrs Atkins said in the House of Commons. "We still have no open livestock markets, six months after the last case, which has had a huge impact on places like Leek in my constituency. "The area surrounding Leek is farmed by hill farmers, and the market plays an important role in breaking down the isolation many of them suffer. "Many of these farmers earn less than £5,000 a year." The district council had paid out £100,000 to help agricultural workers who had lost their jobs in the Moorlands, she said. "However those housing benefits could be the tip of the iceberg, because the knock-on effects on the rural economy could have a much greater impact, which we have yet to experience," she said.
Dec 18

LAWYER TO TAKE ON CRISIS LAWSUIT
Cumbria on line

A London lawyer is urging Cumbrian businesses to join his campaign to sue the government over the handling of the foot-and- mouth disease crisis. Stephen Alexander is touring the country to gather evidence from businesses who lost out. The total claim could amount to £5.1 billion. He told a meeting in Carlisle: "If you leave today and do nothing more, you're letting the government win. "If we can get lots of people supporting us, then our chances of winning increase significantly." ................ Class Law has also hosted meetings in Dumfries, Powys and Devon. Cheshire and Yorkshire will follow. Mr Alexander said the plan was to select the best six cases to take to court.
If a test case succeeds, he believes that the government would have to reach a settlement.
The lawsuit could be directed against the government, the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs, local authorities and the European Union.
Mr Alexander said: "We know Defra gave out wrong information. That's pure and simple negligence.
"We are aware that local authorities exceeded their powers and closed roads they had no right to do. That's breach of duty. "We all know that if the government had acted more swiftly, the crisis would have been over sooner and far less damage would have been done."
Class Law is also seeking evidence that foot-and- mouth broke out earlier than February. It says proof would strengthen its cause. Ian Mitchell, chairman of the Powys-based UK Rural Business Campaign, which brought in Class Law, said businesses had suffered through no fault of their own.
He said: "Many businesses are up for sale and the government is sitting there complacently and letting people suffer.
"They're offering us 50 per cent grants but what good is that if we don't have the other 50 per cent?
"They're offering us business advisers but we know what the problem is.
"They're offering us marketing assistance but if we don't survive, what good is that? It's a survival package we need, not a regeneration package.
"The legal action we propose is a last resort. We've pleaded our case but it's the arrogance and incompetence in dealing with it that angers us most."
The campaign is holding a day of action on February 23, when bonfires will be lit as a symbol of protest.  for more information contact www.ukrbc.co.uk, www.classlaw.co.uk and www.fmdcrisis.org
Dec 18

Plans to ease foot-and-mouth restrictions
Ananova

Details are to be announced on the easing of foot and mouth restrictions. Minister for Food and Farming Lord Whitty will explain the new conditions planned for the middle of next February. The plans are also expected to apply to livestock markets.
The Interim 'Animal Movement Regime' will be introduced if there are no further cases of foot-and-mouth.
Areas of the country classified as 'at risk' from the disease have been reduced dramatically, and the last remaining area is expected to be declared foot-and-mouth free at the end of the month.
Story filed: 05:09 Tuesday 18th December 2001
Dec 18

Government set to relax virus controls
Farmers' Weekly

By Alistair Driver
FOOT-AND-MOUTH controls will be relaxed in February, providing there are no more outbreaks, the government has promised. This was announced by Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs junior minister Elliot Morley in the House of Commons on Monday (17 December). Mr Morley said that an interim movement regime is due to come into place in mid-February. Details of the changes will not be released until Tuesday, but they are likely to affect livestock markets and will make it easier to move animals. ..
Dec 17

Look out for beef labels, says union
Farmers' Weekly

FARMERS' leaders have urged producers and shoppers to look out for new beef labels designed to remove the guess work for people wanting to buy British. This takes place under the second part of Europe-wide legislation on beef labelling which comes into force on 1 January. All beef, including mince, is required to carry additional information stating the country in which the animal was born and reared. The National Farmers Union says the move is a major success in its battle to improve consumer information through clearer food labelling. NFU deputy president Tim Bennett said: "Our standards of beef production in Britain have earned our farmers one of the highest reputations in the world. "This has been hard won and has involved total dedication. It is only right that those that want to support these efforts are not misled when it comes to paying at the checkout." The two-part ruling - the first part became law across Europe in September 2000 - also relates to also sales information near the product and leaflets associated with it. From 1 January it will be an offence not to provide correct information on the country in which an animal is born, reared, slaughtered and butchered. The NFU says any infringement of the new labelling laws should be reported in writing to local trading standards officers.
Dec 17

Totalitarian plan
Telegraph

Date: 17 December 2001
SIR - The Government wants all farmers to be linked by computer to its rural affairs ministry to ensure compliance with its dictates (report, Dec 15). In due course, rural land owners and managers may be required to be registered in order to be allowed to farm or manage their land at all.
It is a characteristic of all totalitarian regimes that they get an inflated idea of their own abilities and resounding successes. They make grand plans for sectors where their knowledge is lacking, and silence informed and constructive criticism by oppressive use of regulatory powers. They then blame others when there is sectoral economic failure.
On the first proposal, it is clear that in many rural areas we are a long way short of adequate telephone lines for fax communication, let alone a quality data transfer facility, and we are years off getting all farmers on e-mail.
As to the second, is there not now incontrovertible evidence that the Government has proved itself ineffective in rural land-use planning and management, over food hygiene and animal health matters?
Is it not also the case that it has no coherent forward strategy in any of these areas, or for the farm-based economy as a whole? And is it not now time to insist that it demonstrates its own competence - or by default, loses effective control in this sector altogether?
From: Earl of Lytton, Shipley, W Sussex
Dec 17

Order of the jackboot
Telegraph

Date: 15 December 2001
SIR - Perhaps Margaret Beckett, the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary, should consult with farmers and other land managers prior to the imposition of a radically different approach to the way that government deals with them? Once upon a time countryside matters were managed by those who actually worked and lived there, but this Government has adopted the order of the jackboot to administer that part of our society about which it knows little.
There are two important principles to be taken into account. Firstly, the countryside is what it is today because of the work of farmers and land managers. Whilst the landscape will survive any malfunction of government, its management is very much a function of those who work there.
The second important principle is that the countryside produces virtually all our food which is not imported and it is the purpose of our farmers to convert the natural resources into foods suitable for human consumption.
However, following on from its failure in the foot and mouth epidemic, the Government now seeks to impose draconian measures on anybody who wishes to work and live outside an urban environment. Earlier this year I escaped from farming under the jackboot of this Government. But where will home-produced food come from if there is a mass exodus of farmers?
From: Arnold Pennant, St Asaph, Denbys
Dec 17

Rural rebels step up fight
The Scotsman

Paul Gallagher
Rural Rebels......warned last night they were ready to face arrest as they prepared to hijack the mainstream movement in support of the countryside with a campaign of direct action to protect the rural way of life. The warning came after more than 15,000 people took to the streets of Edinburgh yesterday in Scotland's largest ever pro-hunting demonstration, organised by the Scottish Countryside Alliance.
But members of the breakaway Rural Rebels group said direct action was required to achieve the movement's aims. Rural Rebels, whose members wear orange boiler suits in a tactic borrowed from anti-GM crops protesters, have already blockaded the Forth Road Bridge and three major roads, including the M74 motorway.
Leaders of the group were distributing recruitment leaflets at the end of yesterday's march, which was organised in consultation with the police, and passed off peacefully. Rural Rebels co-ordinator Noel Collins said: "This demonstration has been a success but if no-one is listening to us then we must carry on in other ways. We have been inundated with enquiries about our group, and we are growing daily.
"We have already told the police that they may have to start making arrests. People will go to prison for their views. Our campaign will go on and on until the politicians listen." The group is planning to disrupt business at Bute House and MSPs' offices in Edinburgh during the next week and members are set to chain themselves to railings and lie in roads to raise the profile of their campaign.
Its demands include an independent public inquiry into the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease, and the right to pursue "peaceful country pursuits".
Members of the Rural Rebels were asked by the Scottish Countryside Alliance not to wear their orange uniforms at yesterday's protest march. The demonstration, called the March on the Mound, brought traffic in the capital to a standstill as it moved from the Edinburgh Meadows, down the Mound, past the Scottish Parliament and along Princes Street. ..............
Dec 17

The first maps showing the proposed right to roam areas areas have been published - including people's gardens.
BBC Today Programme

Excerpt from (15 Dec )Saturday's programme can be heard

Village pubs must diversify, says prince
Telegraph

By Richard Eden
VILLAGE pubs need to offer new services such as a post office or a shop if they are to survive, the Prince of Wales says today. More than half of all English villages no longer have a pub, 72 per cent do not have a shop and 74 per cent have no post office, he points out. "Providing new services from the pub not only keeps an essential service in the village or brings a new one in," the prince says. "But increases the income of the pub itself, giving it a more secure future." In his foreword to a report, The Pub is the Hub, by the organisation Business in the Community, of which he is president, the prince gives warning that rural communities are facing unprecedented challenges.
Margaret Clark, director of the Countryside Agency, said: "Many rural communities have had to contend with the consequences of foot and mouth, which have shown how mutually dependent are all parts of rural life - from farms to the local bed and breakfast to the last remaining village pub - so diversifying is even more important."
Dec 17

Mean Fields: Jonathan Miller: Trapped in my hell's kitchen
Sunday Times

Defra, the ministry of rural death, sends me a questionnaire and warns me it is compulsory to return it. It goes in the bin. I'll answer none of Defra's questions until the gruesome Elliot Morley answers mine. My farmer neighbour Ashley attends the funeral of a 38-year-old woman farmer in Reading. She killed herself with cattle wormer in despair over the future of her herd. Because I was in France I missed the meeting in the parish hall to discuss the master plan for our village. Jeff, the pub landlord, went and asked what was the point, since it covered the same ground as a similar meeting two years ago, following which nothing happened. Silly Jeff: the purpose of the meeting was to hold the meeting. The council is far too busy consulting people actually to do anything.
I dropped in on a neighbour who sits on the board of the Royal Surrey hospital. While she was off making tea I riffled through her papers for the board meeting. The stack was filled with news of meetings, budgets, management training schemes and consultations. Nothing about patients.
When she reappears I ask how much difference the latest government grant will make. None whatsoever, she replies. Pay up, pay up and watch our government play games.
Dec 16

Rural protesters take to the streets
BBC Scotland

Thousands of protesters have taken part in one of the biggest countryside demonstrations ever seen in Scotland. The organisers of the Edinburgh rally called on people from around the world to join them in drawing attention to what they see as the difficulties faced by rural communities. Their grievances include a bill to ban hunting with dogs in Scotland and the aftermath of the foot-and-mouth outbreak.
Protesters are also upset about the Scottish Land Reform Bill, which will open up the countryside and extend the rights of communities to buy their land.
Around 12,000 people set out from the Mound in the capital at 1230 GMT in protest, they said, at politicians' failure to act on the rights of rural communities. ...... Following the rally, thousands of protesters, sounding hunting horns and chanting, made their way through the city centre. The Scottish Countryside Alliance had expected protesters from all over the UK and from as far afield as Australia, Norway and Europe. It described the turnout as "absolutely fantastic" and urged the Scottish Parliament to act on rural concerns. ....
Dec 16

Pro-hunt demo to attract thousands
CNN.com

EDINBURGH, Scotland -- Organisers are predicting a pro-fox hunting march on Sunday will be the biggest ever staged in Scotland.
Tens of thousands of countryside campaigners are expected to travel from around the world for the event in Edinburgh, the so-called March on the Mound. Countryside campaigners are lobbying to save what they say is a way of life
The demonstration, aimed to draw attention to the difficulties faced by rural communities, comes after the government lifted a temporary ban on hunting in an effort to stop the spread of foot-and-mouth. Alex Armstrong, spokesman for the Scottish Countryside Alliance told Reuters. said: "We are hugely heartened by the turnout. There are people as far as the eye can see." Protesters from all over the UK and from as far afield as Australia, Norway and Europe were expected to attend the march, organised by the Scottish Countryside Alliance. Their grievances include a Bill to ban hunting with dogs in Scotland, the aftermath of the foot-and-mouth outbreak and the Scottish Land Reform Bill, which proposes to open up the countryside and extend the rights of communities to buy their land.
Allan Murray, the organisation's director, said: "This really is an opportunity for countryside people to demonstrate how they feel. "We know they are frustrated and angry because of the way rural issues are being dealt with both at Scottish and national level. "Rural people feel politicians want to pass legislation on countryside matters without listening to the people involved or to the true facts."
Dec 16

No mass cull if foot and mouth returns
Independent on Sunday

By Geoffrey Lean and Severin Carrell
Britain will never again try to stamp out a foot and mouth epidemic by slaughtering millions of animals, following a wholescale rethinking of government policy.
Ministers from Tony Blair down are convinced that the public will never accept another mass cull, and believe that recent scientific advances will enable them to vaccinate widely instead. More than six million animals were killed on more than 9,000 farms in this year's epidemic, the worst the world has ever known. Relatively few had the disease. Most were killed either to stop the disease spreading to them or for "welfare" reasons because they were trapped in fields with limited grass because of restrictions on moving them. Ministers still insist, publicly and privately, that they did the right thing. Last week Margaret Beckett delivered a defiant speech to an international conference that met in Brussels to draw lessons from the epidemic. She devoted much of it to rebutting "media comment" - originally published in The Independent on Sunday at the very beginning of the epidemic- making the case that the mass slaughter was unnecessary.
But at the end of her speech she signalled clearly that Britain was open to a radical change of policy. She admitted: "There is much to reassess about how we handle such outbreaks of disease." And she raised the questions: "Is eradication still the right and necessary policy?" and "Is there a greater role and potential for vaccination?" Late last week, her junior minister, Elliot Morley, added: "No one wants to see an epidemic involving massive culling on that scale again."
A new test that can distinguish between the antibodies produced by the disease and those that result from vaccination against it is giving the Government hope that it can minimise the slaughter in future. Sources say that the test would enable eradication efforts to vaccinate all animals in an infected region to stop the disease spreading and allow them to pick out those that have caught it for culling. This, they believe, could satisfy international rules which stipulate that meat exports can resume sooner after an outbreak if infected animals have been killed.
The Netherlands, the country most affected after Britain, kept down its slaughter to 265,000 animals by vaccinating widely. But, even so, 750,000 Dutch signed a petition protesting at the killing. Government scientists now believe that South Africa could have been the source of the virus. Investigations by epidemiologists at Pirbright animal health laboratory in Surrey have isolated the strain of the virus and matched it to the foot and mouth virus which hit South Africa in September last year.
Dec 16

Business zones win planning loophole Independent

Ministers plan to let businesses build offices and factories in "business planning zones" across the country without having to seek planning permission to do so. And tomorrow they will announce plans to stop people challenging the need for new roads, airports, nuclear dumps and power stations at public inquiries.
Environmentalists believe that the changes will fatally undermine the system and open up the countryside to development.
However, Lord Falconer, the Planning Minister, says that the zones will make rural areas more "business-friendly", attracting firms by virtue of being "simple and easy to operate". They would exempt companies from having to get planning permission, so long as the firms observe general "criteria" drawn up for the areas. This would ensure businesses that they would get the go-ahead without delay.
The new provisions for roads, nuclear power stations and other "major infrastructure projects" - stimulated by frustration at the length of public inquiries into controversial plans - are likely to provoke even more opposition. Under them, says Lord Falconer, public inquiries will be able to consider only "the how, not the whether" of schemes. The need for such projects would be decided by "a national policy statement", issued by ministers, and approval would be given by an Act of Parliament. The Government, he said, would "almost certainly" take a view on each project, which means that it would be whipped through. But Tony Burton of the National Trust said yesterday that both plans made ministers "unaccountable".
Dec 16

Booker's Notebook
Sunday Telegraph

Although more than seven and a half million animals were destroyed during the foot-and-mouth epidemic, only three won national fame. Phoenix the calf and Grunty the pig were saved, Misty the goat was not. On April 5 Kirstin McBride returned home from work at Locherbie station in Dumfriesshire to find her pet goat lying dead in the driveway with a plastic bag over its head. While police kept her mother talking in the kitchen, a vet and an official of the Scottish Environmental and Rural Affairs Department (Serad) had climbed over a wall, broken into Misty's shed and killed her.
Miss McBride asked under what law her goat had been killed. When the police could not tell her, she became so upset that she took a knife from the kitchen drawer to kill herself. When a policewoman forcibly restrained her, she pummelled the woman with her fists. She was arrested, held in a police cell for four hours and charged with a string of offences, including assaulting the police.
Since then she has been in court in April, July, August, September and October. Initially she represented herself because she could not afford a solicitor. In September she was told in the Sheriff's court she was foolish not to be legally represented. The Procurator Fiscal, the prosecutor, presented her with "a huge pile of paper, 15 cases full of legal jargon and Latin phrases". The court allowed her two minutes to look them over, yet when she mentioned Serad, the Sheriff had to ask what this was. Just before the latest hearing last week Miss McBride, now legally represented, was told that if she would agree to plead guilty to causing a breach of the peace, all other charges would be dropped. After a night's reflection she decided she did not want a criminal record and refused. The case was yet again adjourned, to March 11.
Under the law, before Misty was killed, Miss McBride should have been served with a 'Form A notice', declaring her home 'an infected place'. No one ever claimed that the goat was infected or been exposed to infection. To this day Serad has been unable to produce a Form A notice, although last week Miss McBride was served with a 'Form B', requiring her home to be kept under surveillance, with a note to say that this was to replace the Form A which has never been served. (Full story)
Dec 16

Cattle Face New Threat in United Kingdom
Farm Progress.com

After all the foot-and-mouth and mad cow disease cases, the United Kingdom cattle industry may have another battle to fight. Bovine tuberculosis, which has been spreading in recent years and poses a risk to human health, might flare when farmers start to buy cattle to replace those culled due to foot-and-mouth.
Fears are that bovine TB may have easily spread in herds that have been cooped up together in the same barns and fields for up to six months.
Cattle that test positive for TB are slaughtered. A new livestock epidemic would be devastating for the county's farmers, whose incomes have been squeezed by low commodity prices, a strong pound and a raft of food and health scares.
Dec 16

Germany Contemplating GMO Too
Farmprogress.com

Representatives of churches, trade unions, general farming associations, scientists and groups interested in environmental and consumer protection have been invited to a new round of talks on possible commercial use of genetically modified crops in Germany. In a previous round of talks, only the GM seed industry was involved. At present, GM crops can be grown for research in Germany but commercial production is banned. The GM issue in Germany is complicated because technically two independent federal agencies - not the government - are responsible for authorizing commercial GM crop use. They are the Robert Koch scientific institute, which rules on safety and health, and the federal seeds agency BSE, which rules whether seeds are a new type not already on the market.
Dec 16

Park members bend the rules to help farmer
Craven Herald

THE Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority has signalled a more sympathetic line with farmers wishing to diversify in the wake of the foot and mouth crisis. It has agreed to allow Chris Hall to convert part of his Town End Farm, Airton, into a farm shop and tea room even though a strict interpretation of policy would have meant refusal. A report to the authority said that: "Policy would indicate that planning permission should be refused. However, there are other material considerations which members may take into account before making a decision here." And authority member Alex Bentley told the meeting: "This is the perfect opportunity for the national park to nail its colours to the mast and show people in the national park that we do support farmers and the farming community." Mr Hall exercised his right to address the authority and said that he had lost all his stock to foot and mouth. "That has given me and my family time to reconsider our future, not only in farming but living and working in Malhamdale," he said. He said he felt there was a need to provide farm food and produce so local people did not need to travel to the supermarket.
The committee voted unanimously to approve the application but only after lengthy debate about how much they should restrict the type of goods sold. Members also granted permission to Mr Hall to turn a barn on the farm into three holiday cottages. The decision comes in the same week as the national park called for greater support for organic and environmentally friendly farming practices which in turn help the conservation of the Dales.
It wants a greater share of Government farming subsidies to be directed towards the type of farming which supports and enhances the area. To date, public subsidies to farmers have largely focused on production. This, alongside economic pressures to increase livestock production, has pushed farmers into a more intensive use of grassland and the greater use of fertilisers. Over the years this has done little to protect or improve the environment of the national park.
Dec 16

Scrapies error is blamed on robot
Telegraph

By Charles Clover and Robert Uhlig
AFTER confusing sheep brains with cow brains a few weeks ago, Government scientists have made another serious error. However, this time they have blamed a robot handling samples in a laboratory. Under the national scrapie plan, scientists are trying to establish which kinds of sheep are most genetically prone to scrapie, which can theoretically mask BSE.
Genotype testing was in progress at two laboratories to find the vulnerable flocks. The Government is using the Animal Health Bill to force farmers to slaughter or castrate sheep prone to scrapie.
The laboratories got the scientific testing right. But the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said one laboratory had transferred the results to the wrong sheep. Some 350 blood tests on five farms were wrong. The department said no animals were required to be slaughtered based on the incorrect results. Elliot Morley, the junior Defra minister, said the result proved the success of the quality control arrangements put in place to spot mistakes. But a department spokesman conceded that the error would have been more serious in a year when the Animal Health Bill has passed into law. An investigation has identified a robot handling samples in one of the laboratories involved, the Laboratory of the Government Chemist, as being to blame. Defra said that the problem was caused by a software error. Ironically, that laboratory identified that scientists were conducting tests for BSE on cows' brains rather than sheep's brains in October. Peter Ainsworth, the Conservative environment, food and rural affairs spokesman, said the mistake showed that the Animal Health Bill was draconian.
Dec 16

Blair faces Euro inquiry
Telegraph

By Robert Uhlig and Charles Clover
THE European Parliament is to hold its own inquiry into foot and mouth, which could lead to the Prime Minister being called to give evidence.
Details of the European inquiry emerged on the day that the Government's "lessons learned" inquiry, chaired by Dr Iain Anderson and held in camera, announced that it had begun. Labour MEPs tried to block the European investigation but were overruled by members of the parliament's agriculture committee, although the form of the inquiry will not be decided until the New Year.
Government sources hope to avoid a full-scale committee of inquiry, which would have the powers to call any witnesses it wished, including the ministers directly responsible - the most senior being Tony Blair. Peter Ainsworth, the Tory environment spokesman, welcomed the announcement of the European inquiry. He said: "Despite repeated calls for the Government to order a full independent public inquiry, they have stubbornly refused to hold one.
"Thanks to Conservative MEPs, we now stand a much better chance of finding out the truth about how, and when, the disease got into Europe and what lay behind the terrible complacency of the Government's early response."
Sir Edward Greenwell, president of the Country Land and Business Association, called for the lessons-learned inquiry to publish its findings. "People need to be reassured that this inquiry asked the right questions and got the right answers," he said.
Dec 15

Farmers face Big Brother link to Whitehall
Telegraph

By Robert Uhlig, Farming Correspondent
EVERY farm in Britain should have a computer with a link to Whitehall to ensure that they comply with ministry decrees, according to plans drawn up after the foot and mouth crisis. The plans - condemned as "Big Brother for farmers" by the Small and Family Farms Alliance - also confirm that the Government is working on a licensing or registration scheme for farmers or farming activity. The proposals, being considered by Margaret Beckett, the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary, are part of "a radically different approach to the way we deal with farmers and other land managers" outlined in an internal Defra memo seen by The Daily Telegraph.
The memo proposes the "very ambitious objective" that "ultimately each farm business would be able - or be required - to have an e-enabled whole farm plan". Michael Hart, chairman of the small farms alliance, said the costs involved would be "another nail in the coffin of the small family farm".
The scheme would require every farmer to draw up a business plan encompassing the total assets of the farms - the soil, water, trees, stock, pastures, crops and wildlife - with details of how they propose to make best use of them in sustainable farming terms. This "e-enabled whole farm plan" would have to be lodged electronically with Defra, giving the ministry an unprecedented insight into every farmer's activities. It would mean every farmer buying a computer capable of being connected to Whitehall. The memo, entitled Licensing or registering farmers or farming activity, says the plan to monitor farmers electronically "springs from widespread feeling, both inside and outside the department, that Defra needs to do more to help farmers adapt to and comply with changing requirements and obligations". It was sent to Lord Whitty, the farming minister responsible for co-ordinating Defra evidence to the foot and mouth inquiries, and copied to Mrs Beckett and other ministerial colleagues. It reveals a list of regulatory requirements and checks that would in future have to be performed electronically as part of a farm licensing scheme. "The aim would be to provide farmers and enforcement authorities with tools to facilitate compliance with legal requirements," it says. It warns that the plan "would need to be phased in carefully" and would "require extremely good co-operation". Mr Hart said the cost of buying a computer and managing any increase in bureaucracy would be almost impossible for many farms to meet. "The degree and complexity of the demands would be quite some feat to achieve and considerably add to the burden for small farmers. "It sounds like some sort of tool to beat us with rather than help us."
Dec 15

RISKS STILL HIGH AS FMD PROBES BEGIN
Dundee Courier

YESTERDAY SAW the formal start of two separate inquiries into the lessons to be learned from the foot-and-mouth outbreak, but-speaking just prior to these investigations-a leading research scientist working with the very virulent disease said that the risk of it breaking out now was as great as it had been back in February.
Dr Peter Nettleton, of the Moredun Research Institute, said the danger lay in bringing the disease in from abroad. But he said that if it did breach the somewhat non-existent import barriers then the current livestock movement restrictions would not allow it to make much progress across the country. From a scientific point of view, Dr Nettleton dismissed control by vaccination at the present time. He added that if such a policy had been implemented "we would still be in the middle of the epidemic."
There were many problems in dealing with the virus, he said, not the least of which were the many strains of the disease. As the scale of the outbreak rose, a number of eminent scientists, backed by animal welfare enthusiasts, clamoured for a vaccination programme.
But Dr Nettleton stated that much of the science calling for this course of action was flawed as it was based purely on how guinea pigs had reacted in a laboratory situation some two decades earlier. So it will be down to the various inquiries to bring forward their solutions to how this country can avoid another outbreak of the disease, which has cost the lives of more than five million head of livestock and the Treasury more than £2.5 billion. (Comment)
Dec 15

Prince Charles Speaks About Farming
Daily News (Yahoo)

LONDON (AP) - Prince Charles urged agriculture students Friday not to let "mad cow'' disease and the foot-and-mouth crisis deter them from farming.
"You are the future. You've got to keep (farming) going,'' he told the students from Kingston Maurward agriculture college near Dorchester in southwest England. The prince, who farms organically on his Highgrove country estate, met the students at Poundbury, the working village on the edge of Dorchester that has been built in keeping with Charles' ideas of agriculture and design.
He urged them not to be put off by recent setbacks in British agriculture, including this year's outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease, which has driven some farmers out of business. .....
Dec 15

Inquiry opens into foot-and-mouth
The Times

THE Royal Society of Edinburgh pledged yesterday to try to discover how much the foot-and-mouth outbreak has cost the Scottish economy.
The society is investigating the disease's impact and will look at control procedures during the outbreak as well as the impact of the disease on the economy, including tourism.
It held its first evidencetaking session with Exeuctive officials yesterday and defended its decision to hold the inquiry in private, saying that much of the evidence will be hugely technical. Some meetings will be open to the public.
The 18-strong committee aims to issue a brief report with a limited number of recommendations by early June. Professor Gavin McCrone, chairman of the inquiry's economic impact sub-committee, said that he wanted to look at the economic impact to see if it suggested how the disease should be managed in future.
Dec 15

FOOT AND MOUTH - LESSONS TO BE LEARNED INQUIRY STARTS TODAY
Anderson Inquiry Press Release

The Lessons to be Learned Inquiry into the Foot and Mouth Outbreak of 2001 today launched its Framework Document, marking the formal start of the independent Inquiry. The Inquiry Chairman Dr Iain Anderson announced that the document was on the Inquiry's web site at www.fmd-lessonslearned.org.uk . Copies were also distributed to many of those with a direct interest in the Inquiry.
The document explains the terms of reference for the independent Inquiry (already announced on 9 August) and lists some broad question areas in which the Inquiry will be interested in receiving responses. The Inquiry team will present its recommendations to the Prime Minister and other recipients in mid-2002. Dr Anderson said:
"The Foot and Mouth epidemic of 2001 was, in social and economic terms, one of the most fundamental and traumatic events for the country since the Second World War. It is essential that we all learn lessons from this. Today, there has been no confirmed case of foot and mouth disease since 30 September: it is now time for this independent Inquiry to begin. "The Inquiry will be inclusive, and seeks views from everyone as to what lessons should be learned from the catastrophic outbreak of foot and mouth disease this year. We have been offered full co-operation by the Government.
"Our website will be an important source of information for people interested in the progress of the Inquiry and we are currently planning visits to affected regions in England, Scotland and Wales in early 2002. I encourage everyone with an interest to present their views to this Inquiry."
Dec 14

'Lessons learned' inquiry begins
Farmers' Weekly

By Isabel Davies
THE inquiry into the lessons to be learned from foot-and-mouth has been formally launched after months of waiting for the epidemic to end. The inquiry, one of three announced by Rural Affairs Secretary Margaret Beckett in August, is being chaired by Dr Iain Anderson.
It's aim is to develop a view on the way that the government should handle any future animal disease outbreaks in the UK. It is due to report back to Prime Minister Tony Blair within six months.
Dr Anderson said it was essential lessons were learned as foot-and-mouth was one of the most traumatic events since the Second World War. "Today, there has been no confirmed case of foot and mouth disease since 30 September: It is now time for this independent Inquiry to begin.
"The inquiry will be inclusive, and seeks views from everyone as to what lessons should be learned from the catastrophic outbreak of foot-and-mouth." The Country Land and Business Association said it was pleased the inquiry was about to start, but it was worried about the integrity of its findings.
CLA president Edward Greenwell said the organisation had always believed the inquiries must be held in public. "The foot-and-mouth outbreak affected millions of people in all sorts of ways, many of which were wholly unexpected and highly damaging. "People need to be reassured that this inquiry, in particular, asked the right questions and got the right answers." A spokeswoman from the National Farmers' Union said it was preparing a submission to go into the inquiry in the New Year. The inquiry has published a framework document which sets out the general approach Dr Anderson wants to take and a rough timetable.
Dec 14

Peaceful protests could end in prison
Hereford Times

FARMERS seeking to make a peaceful protest against culling in any future foot and mouth crisis could risk imprisonment, a Herefordshire solicitor warns this week. The warning comes from Mrs Barbara Jordan of Ross-on-Wye, after she spoke to a public meeting in the House of Commons convened to discuss the new Animal Health Bill. Mrs Jordan, principal of Jordans Solicitors of Ross-on-Wye was invited to speak at the meeting with a number of others including Mr Roger Green, president of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, Mr Aldison, director of the Rare Breeds Trust, Mark Richer, adviser to the RSPCA and Peter Ainsworth, the Shadow Spokesman for rural affairs.
The new Animal Health Bill has now passed through the House of Commons .....
The new Bill has been designed by Government to give DEFRA increased powers in the face of a further outbreak of foot and mouth or indeed any other disease affecting farming livestock, but gives Government a huge range of powers to enable it to cull animals whether or not those animals are affected or suspected of being affected with disease. It also allows Government to order farmers not to breed from particular types of sheep, which may be susceptible to certain sorts of disease and it is notable that Roger Green told the meeting that if this Bill passes into statute any veterinary surgeon following it to the letter and overseeing the slaughter of animals that are not even suspected of disease would be in breach of their own code of professional ethics and could be guilty of a disciplinary offence and indeed risk their qualifications.
Mrs Jordan says that in her view the new Animal Health Bill is draconian in the powers it takes to Government. "It makes the peaceful farm gate protests that were common in the spring and summer this year, when farmers and smallholders were attempting to prevent the unnecessary cull of their sheep, unlawful," warns Mrs Jordan.
"Protesters under the new act could be risking an unlimited fine or up to two years imprisonment. Farmers concerned about the proposed act can contact Mrs Jordan via E-mail on enquiries@jordans-solicitors.fsnet.co.uk
Dec 14

Farms 'still at risk from illegal meat imports'
Telegraph

Yesterday in Parliament
THE Government came under fire from the Tories last night for failing to tighten controls on illegal meat imports after the foot and mouth outbreak. Despite suspecting that it was the way the disease entered the country, nothing had been done to tighten lax security, they claimed. Ann Winterton, a Tory agriculture spokesman, said Britain was vulnerable to animal, plant and human diseases, including the deadly Ebola virus. Attacking Labour for its irresponsible attitude, she demanded that ministers produce an annual report on what action they had taken to tackle the problem. She was speaking during the passage of the Animal Health Bill, which completed its Commons stages last night. The legislation introduces tough new powers aimed at tackling any further cases of foot and mouth, and speeding the eradication of scrapie in sheep. It makes it easier for officials to enter farms for culling, vaccination or testing on a precautionary basis, allows for a possible vaccination programme, and stops farmers getting 25 per cent of their compensation for slaughtered animals unless they comply with disease control measures. Mrs Winterton said: "The saying that prevention is better than cure is one that would be echoed throughout the farming community today. "In spite of this Bill . . . the Government has not addressed the real problem which faces this country at present, and that is our vulnerability to further infection in the future." Mrs Winterton said the legislation was "hasty and insensitive to the needs of the farming community". She said it was "absolutely disgraceful that there are double standards" in the European Union over meat import controls. Diana Organ (Lab, Forest of Dean) called for more resources for checking illegal meat imports. "The problem isn't the naive travelling public," she said. "It is those people who are deliberately illegally importing meat." Colin Breed, a Lib Dem agriculture spokesman, also backed the call for an annual report. "A regular review seen by Parliament . . . will actually be a real means of ensuring that we are vigilant in the future, bearing in mind the enormous cost that foot and mouth has caused the country and the . . . way it has ravaged our rural economy." David Drew (Lab, Stroud) said an annual report would go some way to "allaying people's fears" about the tightening up or otherwise of import regulations. Angela Browning (C, Tiverton and Honiton) called for "tangible" evidence of the Government's handling of meat imports and said she did not want to see "umpteen" glossy reports. There were further calls for an annual report from James Paice (C, South-East Cambridgeshire) who said it would provide "exposure of action being taken", while Richard Bacon (C, South Norfolk) urged the Government to take the issue "much, much more seriously". Elliot Morley, a rural affairs minister, said there was no evidence that British import controls were "substandard" compared with other countries. While the department was not closing its mind to strengthening regulations on import controls, this could be done by order and not necessarily by primary legislation. Keith Simpson (C, Mid Norfolk) backed calls for ministers to have a duty to dispose of carcasses within 48 hours of their slaughter. There was enormous pressure to take the bodies away as quickly as possible but there were logistical problems. On-farm burial was not an option in some areas because of the potential effect on water supplies. He said that if the necessary resources were not in place, Britain could suffer from another animal disease outbreak. David Taylor (Lab, Leics NW) called for transportation of animals to be limited to a total journey time of no more than eight hours. He also urged moves to prevent dealers repeatedly selling animals on by preventing livestock being sold again within 20 days of first being at market.
Dec 14

Protester jailed
The Times

Stephen Morgan, 28, of Bronallt, Llandovery, the farmhand who crushed a police van with a bulldozer while its driver was inside in a protest at the foot-and-mouth cull, has been jailed for three years for vehicle taking and dangerous driving by Swansea Crown Court.
Dec 14

Beckett warns of virus jab dangers
Farmers Weekly

By Philip Clarke in Brussels VACCINATION against foot-and-mouth disease carries many problems, Rural Affairs Secretary Margaret Beckett has warned. "There are seven major strains of foot-and-mouth," she told a conference in Brussels on Wednesday (12 December). "Vaccination against one confers no protection against all." Ring-vaccination was not a practical option when the UK outbreak was detected earlier this year, said Mrs Beckett. By then, there had already been 1.3 million sheep movements and the virus was widespread. There was also strong resistance to the idea of preventative vaccination, she said. The implications of losing export markets for 12 months outweighed the benefit of protecting against the disease. Mrs Beckett was sceptical about the use of new marker vaccines and tests to differentiate between infected and injected animals. Even if the tests were validated, there was unlikely to be demand for meat from vaccinated animals at home or abroad. "Preferring vaccination is not the same as being willing to buy and eat meat from animals vaccinated against foot-and-mouth," she said. She was concerned about the effect on tourism if vaccination was adopted as the main way of combating the disease. The cost of foot-and-mouth to the tourist industry was more than double the cost to farming, she indicated.
(See Inbox )
Dec 14

Re: Countryside is being nationalised
Telegraph

Date: 14 December 2001
SIR - Like most people I did not think the "right to roam" legislation would affect me directly. I have approximately four acres of land attached to my house, some used as a garden and the remainder as grazing for my donkeys. It backs on to the moorland on the foothills of the Pennines, but there are no public footpaths over it, or existing access rights.
By pure chance, I learnt that all of my land has been identified by the Countryside Agency in the provisional mapping process underway under the Countryside Right Of Way Act 2000 as "open country". When the Act comes into effect I can expect to find people walking through my garden and picnicking among my donkeys.
Only because a neighbouring farmer checked on his own land and saw mine was included did I discover the fact. Most of my friends and neighbours have also had their land classified as "open country" - in some cases as little as a quarter of an acre of garden, in others farmers' fields used as grazing for the sheep and cows they are dependent upon for their living.
The Countryside Agency, with the Government's blessing, made a conscious decision not to inform anyone directly if their land has been classified as "open country". Instead, they are arranging a series of low-key regional road shows for public consultation. Everyone who owns land, no matter how small a patch - even an allotment or garden - should seek out and carefully check these maps.
I can only assume that the intention is to nationalise the whole country bit by bit before the majority of us notice.
From: Sally Hargreaves, Todmorden, Lancs

Re: Landowners should be consulted

Date: 14 December 2001
SIR - The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) is already hearing a growing chorus of discontent from members about land that clearly should not be subject to the right of access being wrongly mapped.
This is despite the fact that the draft maps on which the Countryside Agency is currently consulting have so far been produced for only two areas - north-west and south-east England.
The right should apply only to mountain, moor, heath, down and registered common land - otherwise known as "open country". Small paddocks and enclosures of improved grassland should clearly not be mapped. They offer none of the sense of openness that should characterise access land.
The Countryside Agency is consulting now on these draft maps. It is very important that all who have an interest in land in the areas already mapped should check them before the deadline of February 11 next year.
From: Sir Edward Greenwell, President, CLA, London SW1
Dec 14

Mass culling doubts in virus review
Guardian

Andrew Osborn in Brussels
The government admitted for the first time yesterday that it was considering changing the way future outbreaks of foot and mouth disease are handled, after the Dutch government demanded that the controversial EU-wide policy of mass slaughter be dumped in favour of vaccination. In an apparent policy u-turn, Margaret Beckett, the environment secretary, told a conference in Brussels that the time was now ripe to consider the vaccination option, but made it clear that she was far from convinced by its merits. "It is time to re-examine the whole thing again from first principles," she told reporters. " It is absolutely right that we look afresh at this issue, but it is far from clear to me that there is much that could have been done differently." She told the 400 politicians and experts attending the two-day conference that the policy of eradication or mass slaughter should be reviewed and that consideration should be given as to whether there is "a greater role and potential for vaccination.
"There is much to reassess about how we handle such outbreaks of disease, whatever the underlying policy we seek to pursue," she said. She argued, however, that a vaccination policy was fraught with problems.
Consumers were unwilling, she said, to eat meat from vaccinated animals, while the disease itself, if left unchecked, caused extreme suffering and even death to animals. Vaccination was also expensive, a massive logistical challenge, and it remained impossible, she added, to distinguish between infected and vaccinated animals.
The Dutch farm minister, Laurens Brinkhorst, called for "a fundamental change to our current policy of non-vaccination". He said infected meat should not be disposed of since "it bears no risk to human health and there is no reason why we should not eat it".
Dec 13

Bigger role likely for foot and mouth vaccine
Financial Times

Vaccination is likely to play a greater role in fighting any future outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease in Europe to minimise the politically unacceptable mass culling of healthy animals, David Byrne, the European Union food safety commissioner, acknowledged on Wednesday. Speaking at a Brussels conference on the threat posed by the disease, Mr Byrne said a package of new measures should be agreed by mid-2003 to prevent an outbreak similar to that in Britain this year, in which more than 4m animals were slaughtered. The disease also spread on a smaller scale to the Netherlands, France and Ireland. Mr Byrne said: "It is simply inconceivable that we could ever allow a repeat of the crisis that took place this year." There was an emerging consensus that vaccination should be more widely used to control outbreaks, he said. This could help to ensure "unnecessary slaughter and destruction of healthy animals can be avoided", he said.
However, Mr Byrne and other delegates rejected calls for the use of general vaccination to prevent outbreaks occurring in the first place - a move that would have severe trade consequences, with countries losing their "disease-free" status.
The conference heard warnings that the mass slaughter of animals in the UK and the Netherlands would be unacceptable to the public in future. Laurens Jan Brinkhorst, Dutch farming minister, said the killing of 260,000 vaccinated animals there had met with fury. "The Dutch people do not support the government's policy to control the disease," he said. The current policy of excluding the virus from Europe had failed, he said. Vaccination should be widely used in future. Other measures to be included in a directive on FMD control early next year include strengthening import controls, improving identification and traceability systems, restrictions on animal movements and improved surveillance. Jacques Diouf, director-general of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, warned that foot-and-mouth had to be tackled with an international strategy aimed at combating the virus at source. More support had to be given to developing countries where the disease was often endemic, he said. FAO analysis had shown that improving import controls was not enough to manage the risk of the international spread of the disease. An effective global information and early warning system for animal diseases had to be created, he said.
Dec 13

Don't starve this BSE research of vital funds
The Times

MAGNUS LINKLATER
At the end of this month the money runs out for a research programme that must rank as one of the most important in medical science today. It examines the real cause of BSE in cattle; it challenges the theory that eating contaminated meat leads to CJD; and it suggests the remarkable possibility of a link between both these diseases and multiple sclerosis (MS), which kills 800 people in Britain every year. If Professor Alan Ebringer's findings are right, he is on the verge of a breakthrough in microbiology. His work at King's College London has been funded by the Government for the past two years, and last August he published a report which went a long way towards establishing the validity of his claims. He believes that he has identified the microbe responsible for the BSE epidemic that ravaged Britain in the early 1990s, and says that it may also be the one that gives rise to MS.
If he is right, the implications are far-reaching. The public's fears about meat safety could be allayed; a reliable test for BSE would mean that the slaughter of healthy cattle could be stopped; most important of all, it would be possible to reach an early diagnosis of MS and thus, eventually, to find a cure for this most damaging and intractable disease.
All this cries out for investigation. And yet, on December 31, Ebringer's grant comes to an end. Pressed on the issue in the House of Commons last month, Margaret Beckett, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), delivered the following statement: "I have no current plans to extend that funding, there is no question of the research being in any way suppressed; it is supported." No one could work out what she meant.
The reality, however, is simple. The King's College programme will be wound up. Ebringer will turn his attention elsewhere. He has some American funding to support his MS research, but if that is successful, the results will, of course, go overseas. In the meantime, he has been told that SEAC, the government agency set up to look at BSE and CJD, will consider his report in February - but he has been offered no assurances of future support. Without funds, and, more importantly, without government sanction for the work, he cannot go on.
It is a baffling decision, and there are no points for revealing that it comes from the bureaucratic depths of Defra, a government department whose nerveless grasp of science is becoming a positive embarrassment. Once again, a piece of scientific research which challenges established views is being ignored and suppressed. Like the scientists who recommended vaccination against foot-and-mouth disease, Ebringer has been sidelined - in direct contravention of the Phillips report into BSE, which recommended that alternative scientific theories be properly explored. (more)
Dec 13

Country rebels threaten blockade
The Scotsman

David Scott Scottish Government Editor (dscott@scotsman.com)
COUNTRYSIDE campaigners are planning a mass rally of up to 10,000 people in Edinburgh this weekend as a warning to the executive not to ignore the concerns of Scotland's rural community. Details of the "March on the Mound," to be held on Sunday, were unveiled yesterday by the Scottish Countryside Alliance. Another group, Rural Rebels, said they planned to block roads between Scotland and England at lunchtime on Friday. Meanwhile, six MSPs have been advised by the police to be "on their guard" because of possible action by protesters following their refusal to back compensation for people who lose their jobs as a result of the planned ban on fox hunting. Announcing plans for the protest on Sunday, the Scottish Countryside Alliance warned politicians to "heed the rising level of rural protest". Allan Murray, a director of the SCA, said countryside demonstrations were likely to increase over the coming months because those involved in rural issues felt they were being let down by the political process. The alliance aims to highlight a number of issues, including opposition to the proposed ban on hunting with dogs, calls for a public inquiry into the handling of foot-and-mouth and concerns over new rules on land access rights. The rally, at midday on Sunday, will start at the Meadows before a march past the Scottish parliament buildings and along Princes Street, finishing at Kings' Stables Road at the west end of the city centre. Mr Murray said many people remained "angry and frustrated" by the treatment of the countryside by politicians. ..............
Dec 13

EU talks on radical virus rethink
Farmers' Weekly

By Alistair Driver
A RADICAL rethink of the way European Union countries deal with foot-and-mouth disease is being discussed at a major conference in Brussels. More than 400 politicians, officials and animal disease experts are meeting at the two day conference, starting on Wednesday (12 December). Rural Affairs Secretary Margaret Beckett is expected to stress the need to change the mass slaughter policy adopted in response to the UK outbreak She will question the relevance of the EU slaughter policy, which was adopted in 1991 to maintain disease free status so exports can continue. Delegates will discuss the merits of using vaccination and whether animals should be allowed to live after they have been vaccinated. A debate on vaccination has been called by the Dutch government which used the policy this year. National Farmers' Union president Ben Gill will attend the meeting and highlight the need for detailed contingency planning. He believes governments need to be better prepared for future outbreaks than the UK was in 2001.
He will tell delegates there also needs to be more research on the disease, particularly on diagnostic and epidemiological methods.
Measures to ensure that illegal imports of infected meat and animals are kept out of the EU must also be stepped up, he will say. The event was organised by the European Commission along with the UK, Dutch and Belgian governments.
Dec 13

Europe plans new foot-and-mouth law
Farmers' Weekly

By Philip Clarke in Brussels
NEW European Union legislation to deal with future outbreaks of foot-and-mouth is to be tabled early next year. Addressing 450 delegates at an international foot-and-mouth conference in Brussels, food safety commissioner David Byrne said new measures were essential.
"It is simply inconceivable that we could ever allow a repeat of the crisis that took place this year," he said on Wednesday (12 December). In particular, the new approach should exploit new tests that were emerging to differentiate between vaccinated and infected animals.
This would allow vaccination to become a more effective tool in combating foot-and-mouth, Mr Byrne said. While there was no demand for a return to general prophylactic vaccination of all livestock, it could still be used as a ring-fence measure.
But for this to be viable, the tests would have to be fully validated and international rules agreed for the trade in meat from treated animals. Dutch farm minister Laurens Jan Brinkhorst agreed that existing foot-and-mouth policies should change. "The slaughter of healthy animals led to public outrage in the Netherlands." Mr Brinkhorst suggested a system where animals on farms around an outbreak were all vaccinated, but not slaughtered. Using new tests, meat from these animals should be let back on to local, EU and world markets, when it was shown no animals were carrying the virus. Mr Byrne said the commission's new proposals will focus on improvements in livestock management. "This will require improved identification and traceability and more restrictions on animal movements," he warned.
More resources would also be put into stopping illegal imports of contaminated meat.
Dec 13

Prince to give boost to N Yorks farmers
This is York

by Andrew Hitchon
NORTH YORKSHIRE communities hit by the foot and mouth crisis are to receive a "welcome boost to morale" from the Prince of Wales.
The Prince is to visit the county on Monday to show his support for those most affected by the outbreak, and to see how local people are working together to keep rural facilities and young entrepreneurs in the countryside. Part of his visit will take him to the Thirsk area, where local farmer John Furness has helped to organise a meeting with farmers and business people in the village of Knayton.
Mr Furness, who is a North Yorkshire council member of the Royal Agricultural Society of England, said: "The Prince's visit will give a most welcome boost to morale at a time when those farmers who have had their stock culled have been involved in the lengthy cleaning and disinfecting process." He said: "The Thirsk `Blue Box' bio-security area increased the difficulties for arable farms during harvest and autumn work, and also caused heavy financial losses to the large number of pig farmers unable to move their stock. "We are looking forward to discussing our plans for the future with the Prince of Wales."
posted Dec 13

The sheer wastefulness of a long-distance Christmas dinner
Guardian

Felicity Lawrence, consumer affairs correspondent
The ingredients of a traditional Christmas meal bought from a supermarket may have cumulatively travelled 24,000 miles, according to a report, Eating Oil, published today. Food distribution now accounts for between a third and 40% of all UK road freight. "The food system has become almost completely dependent on crude oil.
"This means food supplies are vulnerable, inefficient and unsustainable," said Andy Jones, author of the report for the food and farming charities Sustain and the Elm Farm Research Centre.
Buying the ingredients for Christmas dinner in a London supermarket, the report found that poultry could have been imported from Thailand and travelled nearly 11,000 miles, runner beans came from Zambia (nearly 5,000 miles), carrots from Spain (1,000 miles), mangetout from Zimbabwe (over 5,000 miles), potatoes from Italy (1,500 miles), and sprouts from Britain, where they were transported around the country before reaching the shop (125 miles). By the time trucking to and from warehouses to stores was added, the total distance the food had moved was over 24,000 miles, or the equivalent of travelling around the world once. ...............
posted Dec 13

Re: Unjust and hasty Bill
Telegraph


SIR - The president of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons highlights the ethical dilemma posed to vets by the Government's Animal Health Bill and is right to do so; but we should all be concerned about the ethics of legislation that concentrates even more power in the hands of ministers, and denies rights of representation to the public.
What underlies this Bill is a cynical attempt to blame farmers for the disaster of foot and mouth. In fact, the disease was allowed to get out of control by the dithering and bungling of the very people who are now to be given sweeping powers to enter property and slaughter animals as they see fit.
Maybe new legislation is needed to combat foot and mouth; if so, it should be based on the findings of an independent public inquiry. The Government's stubborn refusal to grant such an inquiry further undermines the moral and scientific bases for the new laws it is seeking to rush through Parliament.
Unjust and hasty as it is, the Bill can only deepen the rift between the Government and rural Britain.
From: Peter Ainsworth MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, London SW1
Dec 12

Disease bill 'may cause epidemics '
Farmers' Weekly

THE Animal Health Bill could create epidemics much worse than foot-and-mouth disease, a leading vet has warned.
Roger Green, president of the Royal Society of Veterinary Surgeons, claims the bill will only serve to antagonise farmers. Producers are the people ministers need to assist in any disease outbreak, argues Mr Green in a letter to The Daily Telegraph.
By riling them, ministers would encourage late reporting of disease that "could make the foot-and-mouth epidemic very small in comparison".
Mr Green also claims that the bill contains "many unsupported scientific judgements"and raises ethical issues. The bill, which receives its third reading the House of Commons on Thursday (13 December), has been condemned in some quarters as draconian. Under it, government officials could apply to court to enter land or property to slaughter animals without farmers or other parties being present. It also makes it a criminal offence, punishable by a six-month jail sentence, to refuse to assist inspectors in slaughtering an animal. In an editorial The Telegraph calls the bill "one of the most illiberal pieces of legislation to emerge from this government".
Dec 12

EU considers farm disease rethink
BBC


The UK will press for a debate on the eradication of foot-and-mouth disease at a major European Union conference in Brussels. The two-day conference, involving more than 400 politicians, officials and experts, is a response to growing pressure for a re-think of the way foot-and-mouth disease is handled in Europe. The UK, which is co-sponsoring the conference, had its last confirmed case of the disease on 30 September and hopes to be declared disease-free next month.
UK Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett will urge delegates to consider a fundamental re-think of international policies to manage the disease. Since 1991 the European Union has had a policy of slaughtering all animals which contract the disease, in order to keep its disease-free status and allow its meat to be exported around the world.
But there is a growing consensus that the sight of mass pyres of burning animals in this year's huge British outbreak should never be tolerated again.
The UK delegation will speak about the impact on tourism such as the US tourists who feared taking the disease back to their own country. The major debate at the conference will be whether vaccination should be used more widely in future outbreaks. It has been called by the Dutch Government, which vaccinated livestock when the disease spread from the UK, but had to kill vaccinated animals to avoid costly trading penalties.
There will be calls for a change in those rules, to allow more animals to survive any future outbreak.
Ms Beckett said ahead of the conference: "I think one of the questions which should at least be put on the table is whether the whole basis of the international policy is right. "The basis of policy across the world, not just in the EU, is if you have an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease it must be eradicated, it must be stamped out, because it has always been regarded as such a danger. "Is the policy of eradication right, if it is why is it, because what you then do flows from whether you are content to live with the disease or whether you are trying to get rid of it?"
Dec 12

Foot-and-mouth: Beckett calls for debate
Ananova

Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett says there needs to be a debate on whether eradication is the answer to foot and mouth outbreaks. She is attending a two-day conference in Brussels co-sponsored by the UK and Dutch governments which brings together leading experts from across the world on both control of the disease and its wider impact. Ms Beckett will tell the conference about how the outbreak developed and how it was tackled in Britain. But she will also urge delegates to consider a fundamental re-think of policies adopted internationally to manage the disease, and whether eradication - the basis of all policy - should be re-considered. "I think one of the questions which should at least be put on the table is whether the whole basis of the international policy is right," she said. "The basis of policy across the world, not just in the European Union, is if you have an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease it must be eradicated, it must be stamped out, because it has always been regarded as such a danger. "Is the policy of eradication right? If it is why is it, because what you then do flows from whether you are content to live with the disease or whether you are trying to get rid of it?" She added: "What I hope to see is a very much more full and open public debate, in part touching on what happened here in the UK this year when we had this unprecedented experience, but mostly starting to think about what it teaches us for the future, not just in the United Kingdom or in the European Union but internationally." The UK delegation will include Animal Health Minister Elliot Morley, Minister for Food and Farming Lord Whitty and the Chief Veterinary Officer Jim Scudamore. The last confirmed case of the disease in the UK was on September 30 in Cumbria and officials are hopeful the whole country will be declared free of the disease by the end of this month or the beginning of January.
Dec 12

Farmhand cleared of trying to murder policeman with bulldozer
Ananova

A farmhand has been cleared of attempting to murder a policeman by crushing his van with a stolen 16-tonne bulldozer.
Stephen Morgan, 28, allegedly ran riot at a mid Wales firing range earmarked for the disposal of slaughtered carcasses at the height of the foot and mouth crisis. A Swansea Crown Court jury took just three hours to reach a unanimous verdict of not guilty of attempting to murder Pc John Stone following the three-week trial.
Morgan was also cleared of two charges of damaging property with intent to endanger life. He was also found not guilty on three separate counts of damaging property and being reckless as to whether life was endangered. But the jury will return to their deliberations tomorrow after failing to reach verdicts on two outstanding matters. One charge, of damaging property with intent to endanger life, relates to Pc Stone. The second charge, damaging property while being reckless as to whether life was endangered, relates to a tent at an army checkpoint.
Morgan, of Llandovery, was accused of creating a major panic during an anti foot-and-mouth protest at the Epynt firing range, in Sennybridge, near Brecon, in April. In a few minutes of alleged mayhem an army check point was destroyed, a police van shunted aside, a Land Rover almost written off and a van with a policeman inside crushed.
Dec 12

Animal Bill 'is unworkable'
Telegraph

By Robert Uhlig, Farming Correspondent

THE president of the Royal Society of Veterinary Surgeons warns today that the Animal Health Bill could become unworkable for vets and create epidemics much more widespread and damaging than the foot and mouth crisis. In a letter to The Daily Telegraph, Roger Green says the Bill, which receives its third and final reading in the House of Commons on Thursday, contains "many unsupported scientific judgments" and raises "an ethical issue which is critical to the regulatory role of the RCVS". He also says that by "antagonising the main people it needs to assist in any disease outbreak, namely the farmers" the Government is "embarking on a course of action" that "could make the recent [foot and mouth] epidemic very small in comparison".
The Bill has already been widely condemned as draconian for giving powers to government officials to apply to court - without farmers or any other interested parties being present - to enter land, buildings or houses in order to slaughter animals. It removes any right of appeal against any order made, and makes it a criminal offence punishable by six months in prison for anyone to refuse to assist an inspector in killing an animal. Demonstrating against any inspector's actions will also be an offence. Mr Green said yesterday that the Bill risked losing the co-operation of farmers, which could hamper attempts to eradicate a future outbreak of disease at its onset.
He writes that council members of the RCVS, the regulatory body for vets, had expressed "an increasing level of concern' that the "haste with which the legislation is being driven through parliament does not allow a full and informed debate."
The Bill was published on Oct 31, more than six weeks after the virus had last been isolated in Britain. The second reading less than two weeks later was justified by the excuse that new legislation was urgently needed to deal with the foot and mouth epidemic. "But no positive blood tests had been found in the country since Sept 30 and no virus isolation since Sept 15; so why the panic?" asks Mr Green.
Mark Richer, a vet and adviser to the RSPCA, supported Mr Green's letter yesterday. He said the Bill would "allow the slaughter of animals not capable of being affected by foot and mouth, or any other disease the minister cares to specify.
"It would allow them to be slaughtered if the minister considered they were in any way capable of spreading the disease - such as a dog wandering across a field." The legislation had no practicable checks and balances and compromised animal welfare.
Dec 11

This beastly Bill
Telegraph

(Filed: 11/12/2001)
ON the letter pages today is a correspondence from Mr Green who is the latest in a series of senior figures to voice his disquiet about the Animal Health Bill, shortly to receive its third reading. Although few people outside the countryside are aware of it, the Bill is one of the most illiberal pieces of legislation to have emanated from this Government.
Under its terms, state inspectors are empowered to enter any property for the purpose of slaughtering animals. The owners have no right to be present, nor any right of appeal. And, in a new departure for English law, officials are authorised to dragoon members of the public into assisting them. Anyone who refuses to help is guilty of a criminal offence punishable, in extremis, by six months in prison.
The proposal is yet another example of the tendency which all Governments have to over-react. Like the current spate of "anti-terrorism" measures, it is based on the premise that legislation ought to be in proportion to the amount of public outrage generated by an event, rather than the need to prevent its re-occurrence. Because foot and mouth devastated parts of the countryside, a suitably Draconian Bill is thought to be in order. It is this false equation that gave us the Dangerous Dogs Act, the War Crimes Act, the Football Supporters Act and the Firearms Act.
Like all these laws, the Animal Health Bill will fail in its primary purpose - that is, it will not help to contain future epidemics. This is because, despite Labour smears, the eradication of foot and mouth was not in fact delayed by recalcitrant farmers.
Those who appealed against the slaughter of their livestock turned out, almost without exception, to have disease-free farms. By contrast, many animals which were entirely healthy were slaughtered as a result of clerical errors. This is, in short, a nasty, autocratic and pointless piece of legislation. We hope the House of Lords will treat it as such.
Dec 11

Letter from Roger Green, president of RCVS
Telegraph

Re: Hasty legislation

Date: 11 December 2001
SIR - An increasing level of serious concern is being expressed about the Animal Health Bill among council members of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons.
It is accepted that the 20-year-old Animal Health Act needs some degree of amendment. However, the haste with which the legislation is being driven through Parliament does not allow a full and informed debate.
No consultative process preceded the publication of this Bill; its second reading on November 12 was accompanied by the excuse that the Bill was urgently needed in the present foot and mouth disease epidemic. But no positive blood tests had been found in the country since September 30 and no virus isolation since September 15; so why the panic?
No rational person would deny that the slaughter of all FMD-affected animals immediately, and all dangerous contacts within 24 hours, is an essential part of disease control.
However the slaughter being extended to all animals on premises designated by a computer, because they are deemed "contiguous", gives considerable problems to veterinary surgeons, as they have been and could be instructed to kill animals without any good scientific or clinical reasons.
This is an ethical issue which is critical to the regulatory role of the RCVS. There is also no scientific definition of "contiguous" in the Bill.
In the section concerned with scrapie in sheep and goats, many unsupported scientific judgments are made.
The Government is therefore urged to look again and consult widely before embarking on a course of action likely to antagonise the main people they need to assist in any disease outbreak: farmers.
Late reporting of disease could make the recent epidemic very small by comparison.
From: Roger Green, President, Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, London SW1

Dec 11

Country protest blocks bridge
The Times

RURAL protesters brought the Forth Road Bridge to a standstill for a brief time yesterday in their latest effort to make their voices heard. A slow-moving convoy of about 80 vehicles, including tractors and horse-boxes, was organised by a loose coalition of countryside interests under the name of the Rural Rebels.
Many vehicles carried banners with slogans including "Beware, country people are angry". Among their grievances are the Bill to ban hunting with dogs and handling of the foot-and-mouth outbreak. One participant in the protest, on the road link between Edinburgh and Fife, was Derry Burns, who farms 340 acres at Lilliesleaf in the Scottish Borders. Mr Burns, 71, said "I have never known the countryside so depressed. Nobody is prepared to listen to us and that is why we are here."
Dec 11

A Scottish way of life faces extinction as 100s of farmers abandon their steadings because they can no longer afford to live
Hoover online

Source: The Sunday Mail, December 09, 2001
BILLY PATERSON SPECIAL REPORT
SCOTS farmers have had their income slashed by more than 80 per cent, driving more than 800 to the wall. Advertisement: Explore Within This Space A new study has found the average profit on a small Scottish farm has fallen from pounds 23,700 in 1996 to just pounds 3950 this year. In that time, hundreds of farmers have been forced to abandon their steadings because they can't afford to live. Yesterday, one Scots farmer explained how his business was suffering. Alan Thom, 37, of Goosehill Farm at Kirkmichael, near Ayr, said: "What is worrying is that this study was commissioned before the foot and mouth crisis - so the true scale of the dilemma will be even worse now." ..............
Dec 11

Brussels tries to close most agricultural merchantes . . .
Hoovers.com

SPEAKING at a meeting attended by over 100 agricultural merchants in Portadown, Dr Roger Dawson, Secretary General of the UK Animal Health Distributors Association, AHDA, said: "The new EU Commission policy on pharmaceuticals would result in the creation of a prescription only monopoly in the supply of animal medicines to farmers and horse owners. "Despite protests, a draft Directive incorporating this policy was formally presented to member states and the European Parliament on November 28.
"It is a sad irony that the section of the Commission responsible for this policy calls itself 'DG Enterprise' - it can only be a bureaucratic 'enterprise' that has as a central part of its policy the closure of legitimate businesses.
"This is yet another serious blow to the rural economy. In addition to the businesses destroyed, it will result in around 3,500 persons in the UK holding a specific qualification to carry out their jobs, having no jobs to perform, and for their expertise to be made worthless by Brussels. "Just as the general public can visit a pharmacy to buy many medicines over the counter, some under the supervision of a pharmacist; so farmers are able to visit an agricultural merchant, and horse owners are able to visit a saddlers, and buy some medicines for their animals, mainly preventative medicines, from persons with a specific qualification to sell and supply these non-prescription animal medicines. It is now Commission policy to end this right." He went on to say: "In Germany all such medicines can only legally be supplied by a veterinary surgeon - although this over-restriction has resulted in a significant amount of illegal trading in them. For many years Germany has been pressing Brussels to extend their veterinary monopoly across the EU."
He explained that such a change would not improve food safety, that residues of non-prescription medicines were just not found in food, and that prescription was not necessary for effective traceability, as was demonstrated by the universal recording of the use of all categories of animal medicines in Northern Ireland whose LMC had recently bought 10,000 animal medicine record books for distribution to farmers.
He committed AHDA and its allies in the Animal Health Alliance to fight the proposal, and indicated that they already had some support among MEPs for the sort of reasoned amendment devised by AHDA which would protect the current system, and pledged that everything possible would be done to persuade a majority to incorporate this amendment into the Directive during its passage through the European Parliament. He concluded by calling upon British Ministers to condemn this policy and commit themselves to work with others to prevent its adoption......(comment)
Dec 11

BSE testing to create backlog in slaughterhouses
HelsinkiNews

Same disease source suspected in Finland and Denmark
The expansion of BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) testing to all cows over 30 months of age will create considerable backlogs in slaughterhouses, beginning on Monday morning. With carcasses waiting in slaughterhouses for longer than usual, no new animals can be admitted.
Farmers will be forced to keep cows that have been chosen for slaughter on farms until slaughterhouses can fit in new animals. One slaughterhouse reports that it normally cuts up meat on the day following the slaughter, but now there will be a delay of three days.
With the current preliminary BSE test, the result takes three days. However, the new Elisa-test, which will soon be introduced in Finland, produces a result in 24 hours. Then again, this test is also less accurate, and will thus lead to some false alarms. With the new requirement to test all cows over 30 months, even smaller slaughterhouses will now be required to perform tests. Previously, only healthy animals were brought to small slaughterhouses.
All the necessary measures that follow a BSE finding were completed on the sick cow's farm in the Oulu Province by Friday. The family that lives on the cattle farm have also received crisis counselling. It has been established that the farm was managed impeccably, and there was nothing that could have been done to avoid the infection. Many concerned farmers have contacted authorities over the past few days, worried how the disease can be avoided under the circumstances. The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry is due to investigate possible sources of contamination on Monday. Two theories have been presented: either the grease that is added to the mixture fed to calves was tainted, or the animal feed had come into contact with feed intended for other animals. Danish authorities are exploring the same alternatives in their investigations, but have not yet forbidden the use of bovine grease in feed intended for cows.
Dec 11

Even newer Muckspreader
Private Eye

Britain's farmers will be consoled to know just how well those who have been paid to look after their interests manage to look after their own. Lord Haskins, of course, is the expert chosen by the Beloved Leader to advise on the future of British farming as his 'rural recovery co-ordinator'. His chief qualifications for this role were that he was chairman of two large public companies with agricultural links. Northern Foods is the largest supplier of processed foods to our supermarket chains. Express Dairies is our biggest milk marketing company. Sadly Lord H has now had to step down as chairman of Express Dairies, shortly after it was found by a Management Today poll of Britain's businessmen to be among the top five of the country's 'Least Admired Companies'. Its rivals for this coveted title included Railtrack and the now bankrupt Independent insurance company. In tribute to the noble lord's management skills, Express Dairies was singled out for its 'inability to innovate'and its 'prospects as a long-term investment', which certainly equips him to advise on Britain's rural recovery.

The dynamic figure chosen to replace Lord H as Express Dairies' chairman is none other than Sir David Naish, former boss of the National Farmers' Union. In 1994 it may be recalled, Naish led those who supported the breakup of the old Milk Marketing Board, which at least guaranteed Britain's dairy farmers the chance to sell their milk at the kind of prices enjoyed by their French and Irish competitors. If the main losers from the disappearance of the MMB were the very farmers whom Naish was paid to look after, the main beneficiaries were the big corporate buyers of milk, headed by Northern Foods and Express Dairies. Not only were they now free to buy milk at ever-lower prices from British farmers. They were also free to import ever greater quantities of surplus milk from other EU countries which, thanks to the collapsing euro, was more than able to compete in price. Tens of thousands of British dairy farmers have gone out of business as a result. But least Sir David himself has been able to benefit from a disaster which he and the NFU did as much as anyone else to bring about.

If anyone else did as much to preside over the collapse of British agriculture in recent years it was Richard Packer, the Maffia's top civil servant until last January he was asked to 'take early retirement' in return for a payoff of £500,000. Affectionately known to his intimates as 'the barrow boy' or 'the ocean-going s***', Packer showed conspicuously little interest in farming as it lurched from one disaster to the next. But he has now made up for this by producing a learned paper on the industry's future for the Centre for Policy Studies. His chief recommendation is that British farmers would be better off without subsidies, ignoring the fact that all their main competitors are more highly subsidised than they are and that, under the EU's Common Agricultural Policy, this would not be allowed anyway. He talks blithely about how the CAP is to be reformed next year, apparently oblivious to the fact that this 'review' has been officially put off until 2006. It seems he knows even less about farming now than when he was in charge of the ministry. But at least his paper might help earn him that knighthood he was so pointedly not given when he was invited to clear his desk.
Dec 11

Rural expert to chair virus inquiry
Farmers Weekly

A FORMER director general of the Countryside Commission will chair Northumberland County Council's public inquiry into foot-and-mouth.
Michael Dower is visiting professor in European Rural Development at the Countryside and Community Research Unit, Gloucestershire University. He was director general of the Countryside Commission  the forerunner of the Countryside Agency  from 1992-1996. Northumberland's five day hearing into the effects and handling of the disease will be held at County Hall, Morpeth, on January 14-18. It will trace the spread of the disease in the county, as well as looking at its impact and the roles taken by key agencies in dealing with the crisis.
Prof. Dower said: "This tragedy has had a massive impact on the farming industry and the whole rural economy of Northumberland." The inquiry will help the County Council and others judge how to speed up the recovery process and how we may avoid a future outbreak, he added. Prof. Dower is the grandson of the late Sir Charles Trevelyan of Wallington, a Northumberland landowner who left his property to the National Trust. Prof. Dower said: "I welcome the chance to help a county which I love and where I spent much of my boyhood."
Northumberland County Council leader Michael Davey said the inquiry would be one of the most important ever undertaken by the authority.
Written submissions must be sent to the Council's democratic services department no later than December 14, he said.
A public inquiry held by Devon County Council has already described the government's fight against foot-and-mouth as "lamentable". (See also)
Dec 11

Use tax breaks to cut food miles'
Farmers Weekly

By Isabel Davies
TAX incentives should be used to encourage more people to buy food from local suppliers, according to a farming and environmental group. Sustain, a group campaigning for better food and farming, says much food travels thousands of miles before it ends up on people's plates. More energy is used transporting food around the world than is got out of it in the form of food calories, says a Sustain report.
For example, every calorie of iceberg lettuce, flown in from Los Angeles, uses 127 calories of fuel to get it to the UK.
The report - Eating Oil - Food in a changing Climate - says the trade in food is increasing faster than the world's population and food production. Between 1968 and 1998, world food production increased by 84%, population by 91% and food trade by 184%. A recent survey by the Institute of Agriculture and Trade Policy estimated UK imports of food products and animal feed use about 1.6 billion litres of fuel. The report questions the logic of a modern food system which sees food imported and exported all around the world. "Rather than importing what they cannot produce themselves, many countries appear to be simply swapping food," it says. This, it claims, has consequences for climate change, food security and increased incidence and spread of disease. The report claims that the government appears to hold two mutually incompatible positions. It claims to be committed to a sustainable food and farming system, but it is also in favour of globalisation and free trade, so cannot promote the former. Developing a sustainable food system should become a major policy based on setting targets for things like local sourcing of food, the report says. Alternatively, it suggests the farming and food sector could voluntarily opt to steadily increase the proportion of local produce they buy and sell. A labelling system could also be introduced to give shoppers an indication of the environmental impact transporting a food product has had.
Dec 11

Rural campaign groups threaten daily disruption
Scotsman

JEREMY WATSON
RURAL rights campaigners took to the streets of Edinburgh yesterday in a convoy of about 60 tractors and trucks. Protesters made their way through the centre of the city in what they claimed was the first of a series of demonstrations at the "failure" of politicians to listen to country people. The demonstration mirrored the protests last year in which convoys of lorries brought cities and motorways to a halt over high fuel prices and taxes. Those protesters blockaded oil refineries, causing petrol stations to run dry and queues of angry motorists. The blockades only ended after the government promised concessions.
Yesterday's organisers warned protests would take place every day, except Sundays and over Christmas, until their demands were recognised. They claimed they had 1,000 tractors from across Scotland ready to take part. Police, who told the protesters yesterday to limit the number of vehicles to 50, said the convoy had caused minimal disruption. Protesters, dressed in bright orange overalls, went slowly on The Mound past the Scottish Parliament.
An organisation calling itself Rural Rebels said it represented 19 countryside protest groups from across Scotland, each with separate issues. "We have shown today that we mean business. We will disrupt the people running this country in the same way they are disrupting the lives of people in the country," a spokesman said. "No one wants to have to take to the streets, but we have been forced into this action by the politicians who have ridden roughshod over our rights."
Campaigners were angered by the defeat last week of a bid to compensate rural workers who would lose jobs under proposed legislation to outlaw fox-hunting. The bid was defeated at a highly charged meeting of a powerful Scottish Parliament committee, reinforcing concerns that rural issues were not being addressed at the parliament. The countryside group demanded a public inquiry into the foot and mouth outbreak..... The protest coincided with a bill by Labour MSP Mike Watson, the new tourism and culture minister, to outlaw hunting with dogs, which was undergoing its final day of scrutiny by the Scottish Parliament's Rural Development Committee, before moving to its third and final parliamentary stage. "A lot of people in the countryside are angry at intrusions in our way of life," the spokesman said. "We feel that the urban block-vote system in our new Scottish Parliament is trying to change the way our countryside looks while eroding the way of life for its people."
Dec 10

Foot-and-mouth farms abandon their sheepdogs
The Times

BY VALERIE ELLIOTT, COUNTRYSIDE EDITOR
SHEEPDOGS and pups, the latest, forgotten victims of foot-and-mouth disease, have been abandoned in their thousands by hard-up farmers and animal shelters are reporting record numbers of border collies in need of a home. One rescue centre, Animal Samaritans, based near Craven Arms, Shropshire, is still taking in up to 35 sheepdogs a week to save them from being shot by farmers. But the centre said that people should not consider such a dog as an ideal family Christmas gift, as they are unsuitable to be around young children. Many are working dogs that have lived their whole lives in sheds or barns. They may not be house-trained and are not used to having a collar or walking with a lead. Above all, they need plenty of exercise and stimulation. A border collie can walk as far as 15 miles each day and still want more. Carol James, a spokeswoman for Animal Samaritans, said that border collies that do not get the attention they need will find their own solutions. She said: "A half-hour walk, two or three times a day, can be enough as long as the dog is given tasks such as 'retrieve' and 'come back'. If they do not get this employment and stimulation they will come home and find their own employment - like tearing down the curtains. The important thing is that collie owners are fit and can give them plenty of exercise. Young children are no good, but a home with active teenagers, especially a few footballers, is ideal."
Homes are currently being sought for Chloe and Ross, puppies of an abandoned collie called Sky, who was picked up four weeks ago and has now settled into a new home. The pups are being cared for in a temporary foster home near Ludlow. The other five pups are already settling into new homes.
Mrs James said that Sky's story illustrated the plight of unwanted sheepdogs. A Welsh farmer had contacted the centre about the dog. "The farmer had been affected by foot-and-mouth and phoned us to say that the dog was surplus to requirements because she was having puppies," Mrs James said. "He had wanted the vet to put her down and take the puppies with her.
"In the end we were issued with a warning that if we did not pick up the dogs by 1.30pm that day they would be shot. When we got to the farm they had been abandoned and tied to a post. The real problem for the farmer is that Sky did not want to work. This is just the tip of the iceberg. I know of dogs being shot and put on bonfires as farmers do not want them any more."
The Border Collie Rescue organisation in Richmond, North Yorkshire, also reports an increase of working dogs that need homes. Mike Cooke, a spokesman, said: "Usually 90 per cent of the dogs we keep are pets on farms but at the moment 100 per cent are working dogs, because of foot-and-mouth." He said that a difficult aspect of his work was dealing with farmers forced to give up their dogs. "We were getting calls from distressed farmers who had lost their livelihood and the final straw was parting with their sheepdog. "What could they do with their dogs when the sheep had been culled? It takes months for the compensation to come through and to restock. They are working dogs, not pets, so they cannot live in a house." Jenny Booth, a volunteer with Border Collie Rescue, of Rugeley, Staffordshire, said that the best-trained dogs were worth up to £1,000 and many farmers were still holding on to them. "Farmers are keeping them until they restock or intend to sell the best to someone else. But otherwise farmers are having a clearout of dogs that won't work or are too old."
Dec 10

Factory farms face threat of legal action
Pioneer Press (USA)

BY DENNIS LIEN Pioneer Press
NORTHFIELD, Minn. -- Calling large factory farms an "outlaw industry,'' environmental attorney Robert F. Kennedy Jr. warned Friday that some large Minnesota operations could face lawsuits from his organization, Waterkeeper Alliance.
Kennedy, president and founder of the umbrella organization, was at St. Olaf College to speak to anti-corporate farm activists and to publicize the alliance, which he said has assembled a substantial legal team over the past year to go after large hog-factory polluters nationwide.
It already has filed several lawsuits in North Carolina against Smithfield Foods, the world's largest hog raiser and producer, alleging state, federal and racketeering violations. "There is a day of reckoning coming,'' said Kennedy, son of the late Robert F. Kennedy and nephew of the late president John F. Kennedy.
All large factory farms, Kennedy said, break clean air and water laws to gain a competitive advantage, but state and federal regulators routinely fail to enforce those laws because of a lack of resources or will. "They can't produce a pork chop more efficiently than family farmers unless they break the law,'' Kennedy said.
He defined factory farms as enterprises that produce more manure than they can spread safely as fertilizer. In the past decade, those operations have proliferated across the nation and Midwest, with environmentally damaging manure spills becoming increasingly common. "Waterways that are owned by the public have been robbed from the public,'' Kennedy said. ....
Dec 9

Hounded out of business
The Scotsman

Stephen McGinty

A hard time for country folk has just become harder. For those whose experience of the rural life remains coloured by Penelope Keith in To The Manor Born, or a few snatched minutes of The Archers on Radio 4, life in the countryside is rarely as idyllic as we imagine. The first year of the new millennium has not been kind to those who work the land, as they tackled the effects of the devastating foot-and-mouth outbreak. For those whose work is involved with fox-hunting, the outlook has grown even bleaker.
Next year the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Bill is expected to be passed, which will prevent the hunting of foxes by dogs, accompanied by men on horseback. In a strange irony, few foxes will be protected, as extermination by gun will continue, while as many as 800 hounds could be put down, their role no longer permissible. But the effect of the bill will fan out across the countryside with the government estimating between 160-172 job losses and the Scottish Countryside Alliance putting the figure much higher.
This week, however, the Scottish parliament insisted no-one would receive any compensation for the loss of jobs, business or livelihood in the event of the bill becoming law. On Tuesday the rural development committee voted by six votes to five not to pay compensation.....
Dec 9

Scientists develop new test for foot-and-mouth
Ananova

... The Institute of Animal Health has devised a method of screening DNA taken from animal blood. It can provide results within seven hours. The samples are being collected from farms and will be used with a number of other tests to help stamp out foot-and-mouth.
A Defra spokeswoman said: "We welcome this technology and we are constantly looking to develop new technology to help with the diagnosis of disease. "We've been working very closely with the Institute of Animal Health on these tests. "This particular test is being used currently as part of a battery of tests to diagnose foot-and-mouth and it assists in stepping up our diagnosis."
The number of cases of the disease in the UK and Northern Ireland peaked at 2,030 and there have been no new confirmed outbreaks since September 30. The majority of the country has been classified as foot-and-mouth free with only a small number of counties still at risk from the disease.
The new procedure is called a Polymerase Chain Reaction test and has been developed by the Institute based in Compton, Wiltshire.
Dec 8

Re: Cruel proposal
Telegraph (letter)

SIR - My flock of 200 sheep know me and each other. Any shepherd knows sheep are sentient creatures, though no one who saw the cruelties during the foot and mouth slaughter, when ewes were transported heavy in lamb and gave birth as they were killed, would think the authorities realised that.
Now Margaret Beckett is proposing an even greater slaughter, with no effective appeal, on the advice of scientists whose models are based on the untrue assumption that foot and mouth spreads by chance. My sheep never enter the food chain.
Yet the Government is taking powers in the new Animal Health Bill, which has its report stage next week, to kill or castrate them if they are not genetically resistant to scrapie, a disease which never harmed a human being.
It is scientifically proven that if I pin up pictures of the various agriculture and environment ministers at the head of paths leading to empty or full feeding troughs, my sheep will learn which politicians to avoid. Is there hope that the Government could be as clever as my sheep, and learn to distinguish those scientists who are expert, not in modelling, but in animal disease?
From: Ann Young, Great Salkeld, Cumbria
Dec 8

Quicker farm disease tests promised
BBC

Rapid tests may help prevent mass culling A new test that could cut the diagnosis time for foot-and-mouth disease from days to hours has been developed by British scientists. Officials at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said it could make a significant difference in the handling of any future outbreak. At the height of the outbreak earlier this year, some experts said the delays in providing accurate diagnoses contributed in part to the spread of the disease.
Professor Chris Bostock, the director of the Institute for Animal Research, said the new test relied on testing foot-and-mouth's unique genetic material and copying it many millions of times. He said the test combined the sensitivity and reliability of the current tests.
If in future mobile laboratories are used the time taken to get results could be dramatically reduced, he said. Currently two tests exist. One is quick but relies on knowing which strain of the disease is being dealt with. The other works on all strains of the virus but can take up to four days to produce positive results. A spokesman for Defra said the new test had the potential to deliver fast and reliable diagnosis but further work needed to be done to validate it.
Dec 8

Thousands back call for virus inquiry
Farmers Weekly

By Mike Stones
MORE than 112,000 people have pledged support to our joint campaign for a full public inquiry into the causes and handling of the foot-and-mouth crisis. In response to requests from our readers, FARMERS WEEKLY launched its campaign in mid-July. Later that month, we joined forces with Horse & Hound magazine to lobby our combined readership. In August, both magazines teamed up with leading regional newspapers Western Morning News in Plymouth, The Western Mail in Cardiff and The Journal in Newcastle.
Together we attracted massive support for a public inquiry into foot-and-mouth from rural and urban readers alike. FARMERS WEEKLY alone attracted nearly 25,000 signatures.
"Never before in our 67-year history has the magazine commanded such keen support from so many readers," said FARMERS WEEKLY editor Stephen Howe. Campaign support grew after the government announced in August its three independent inquiries and a policy commission.
The editors of FARMERS WEEKLY, Horse & Hound and the three regional newspapers will deliver your signatures to Downing Street as soon as a date can be agreed with Number Ten.
"We are looking forward to letting the Prime Minister know precisely how the country feels about his decision to hold foot-and-mouth inquiries behind closed doors. "Only the international crisis has prevented us from delivering them early this autumn," said Mr Howe.
Dec 7


comment from David

Yet another example of how farmers are overburdened by costs.

It is useless talking to MP's about such matters because the UK has lost control of its own destiny in so many respects. Farmers have long been asking for relaxation on where to buy medicines because of the huge cost. In other countries, such as Ireland, you can buy antibiotics over the counter, so many farmers have been buying them illegally from Ireland. A lady in Holland says she can mail me veterinary supplies but as yet I have not taken up her offer. Vets in the UK say they don't charge the full amount for their time, so they make it up on drugs and supplies.

I recently wanted a box of 10 blocks for sticking on to the good claw of cows where one claw has become infected. The vet's price was £20 higher than my agricultural merchant (£80 instead of £60), which is a hell of a mark up. I think vets work on a mark up of 30% which is not a cost Uk farmers can take when they have to sell at world prices where drugs can be bought over the counter.


Inquiry - Chances of winning are high'
Farmers Weekly

CHANCES of winning legal action to force a public inquriy into the foot-and-mouth crisis are more than 60%, says legal expert.
"We believe we can show the government was wrong not to respond to requests to hold a public inquiry into its handling of the foot-and-mouth crisis," said Tim Russ, head of the agricultural law team at west-country firm Clarke Willmott Clarke. A chance to persuade a judge to order the government to hold a public inquiry will come next February during a judicial review of the government's decision at London's High Court.
Two other legal teams, Gabb and Co of Wales and Bristol-based Burges Salmon, are gathering evidence with Clarke Willmott Clarke on behalf of claimants who suffered hardship due to the crisis. After hearing evidence supporting pleas for a public inquiry and the opposing view from a Defra law team, the judge will decide whether to order ministers to open a public inquiry.
A Defra spokeswoman said the department would defend the government's decision to hold two independent inquiries and a policy commission in the aftermath of foot-and-mouth. FARMERS WEEKLY has pledged to support part of the costs of the legal action in association with Western Morning News and The Western Mail.
To support the campaign, with pledges of money or evidence, contact Tim Russ at Clarke Willmott Clarke, Blackbrook Gate, Park Avenue, Taunton, TA1 2PG (phone 01823 445218; fax 01823-445816)
Dec 7

Retiring farmer gives last pig to animal rights group
ananova

... Hans Versteden says he wants the pig to live his life enjoying himself in the mud. Animal rights group Gaia plans to give the pig to a children's farm where he can live out his days. Mr Versteden, 48, has been farming at Tielt, breeding more than 1,000 pigs a year, since 1972. But he says the cost of keeping them in a "friendly environment" was so high that he had to quit.
He was left with just one pig which he decided should be allowed to live out his days in peace. "It's a reaction against those awful pictures during the foot and mouth period of herds being killed and treated as dangerous waste," he told Het Niieuwsblad.
Gaia chairman Michel Van den Bossche accepted the pig and promised it to donate him to a children's farm where he will live until he dies of old age.
Dec 7

DRIVEN OUT BY FOOT & MOUTH
Cumbria online

A WHITEHAVEN couple say they are being forced to quit their pub because foot and mouth has killed their business. Jeanette and Rod Kimber claim they are the forgotten victims of the epidemic, which has virtually wiped out all their trade at The Lowther Arms in Sandwith. The couple have ploughed hundreds of pounds into marketing the pub as the first on Wainwright's famous Coast to Coast walk, which starts at nearby St Bees.
Now they say they have nothing left and have received no support to keep them going. Mrs Kimber, 39, told the News & Star they were left with no choice but to hand their notice into the Robinsons brewery.
She fears that unless it can find new licensees in the next six months, the pub, which is one of only two in the village, could close forever. "When we moved here in April 2000, things looked very promising and judging by the bookings we had at the beginning of the year, we should have been full throughout the season. That would have carried us through the winter. "But when foot and mouth struck, all the bookings were cancelled and now there are no prospects."
Mrs Kimber said they were outraged when their bid for a Business Link grant was turned down because there was no money, yet £28,000 from the Spirit of Recovery foot and mouth fund was spent on the recent coastal beacon display. "There is no compensation for us for loss of trade. We feel very hard done by.
Dec 7

Questions and answers on Classical Swine Fever DN: MEMO/01/422 Date: 05/12/2001
European Commission Press Room

Brussels, 5 December 2001
EXTRACT

Is there any revision of existing CSF policy foreseen?

The Council of Agriculture Ministers has on 23 October 2001 adopted a new Directive on the control of Classical Swine Fever, following a proposal put forward by the European Commission in September 2000 (COM(462)final). The new Directive consolidates existing rules and adapts them to new scientific insights and progress, and to experience gained in recent years with CSF outbreaks in areas of high density pig farming.
The new rules continue the non-vaccination policy based on the culling of all pigs in farms infected with CSF, but foresee a possible wider use in future of vaccination in emergencies through the use of marker vaccines. Marker vaccines will, once appropriate test methods have been developed and approved, allow distinguishing vaccinated pigs from pigs that are actually infected. Their use will need to be authorised by the Commission on a case-by-case basis and be subject to strict evaluation and control. Specific decisions on trade restrictions to apply to farms that have used the marker vaccines will also need to be taken on a case by case basis

Case for inquiry into disease taken to Brussels
icWales

Sheila Coleman
A FULL public inquiry into the foot-and-mouth epidemic may be launched by the European Parliament this week.
The move by Conservative Wales Euro-MP Jonathan Evans was in danger of collapse last week , despite having obtained the necessary 200 signatures to demand a 12-month special committee of inquiry by the Parliament. "The European presidency in Brussels told me that they were unsure whether the legal grounds existed for such an inquiry to be held," Mr Evans told Saturday's Conservative Political Forum for Wales conference in Cardiff. Mr Evans is a solicitor by profession. "Within three-and-a-half hours, I had delivered them a list of fourteen legal reasons," he said. During preparation of his petition and case, Mr Evans discovered that the UK contingency plan covered 24 pages. He described the document as "astonishing."
Mr Evans said, "It contained all sort of details about whether workers should switch to wearing wellingtons and about the size of posters that should be put up. But it said nothing at all about the crucial issues of whether stock should be buried or burned." Mr Evans said that the European inquiry will be able to summons British and Welsh ministers and officials to give evidence.
He pointed out that the UK Government has refused to hold a public inquiry, while the inquiry that will be held by the National Assembly's agriculture committee will be strictly restricted in the subjects it can deal with.
Meanwhile the Welsh Liberal Democrats will use today's Royal Welsh Winter Fair to "fully assess" the impact of foot and mouth. The party will use the Winter Fair in Builth Wells to step up their calls for a full England and Wales public inquiry.
Mick Bates, the party's rural affairs spokesperson, is appealing to those in rural communities affected by foot-and-mouth, to help his party complete a survey of the damage inflicted on local businesses by the outbreak in Wales, which will be used to push for better government support.
"Currently there are no figures available of the impact of foot-and-mouth disease on businesses in Wales," said Mr Bates. "It's important that someone takes action and collects the necessary facts and figures, now that the threat of foot-and-mouth has subsided. Welsh Liberal Democrats can do this and use our influence in Welsh government to feed into the decision-making process."
posted Dec 6

Taxpayers 'need convincing over farming's funding'
Ananova

..... Ewen Cameron says too much public money is being spent subsidising over-production by farmers. He says little is being spent on the contribution farmers make to saving the culture and environment of the countryside.
Mr Cameron, chairman of the Countryside Agency was speaking at the Royal Agricultural Society's Agrivision conference in Warwickshire. He is now calling for a shake-up of England's rural policy to safeguard the future.
He said: "We need a complete move from subsidising over-production to investment in the environment and rural development. Farmers need to become the rural entrepreneurs of the future. "But if the taxpaying public is to be convinced that the countryside is still worth funding, it must see what it is getting for its money." He said taxpayers paid a heavy price for unwanted products, while farmers got insufficient support for delivering social or environmental benefits.
Every year, more than £3 billion went into production subsidies that most people, from farmers to consumers, now agreed were damaging and ineffective. The countryside was worth this investment, but its grants needed to be redirected to buy public benefits that people would truly value and on which farmers would get a fair return
Dec 6

Newspapers and politicians are calling for a Public Inquiry into government's (mis)handling of FMD.
Dairy Farmer

...the 'practice run' Government have had "controlling" our FMD virus, will have given the UK population confidence in their ability to handle anything a terrorist might throw at us - won't it? After what could be described not as "control" but carnage by computer, the officially quoted figure on November 4th is 2030 FMD infected farms. But 9,585 have been slaughtered out and in answer to a parliamentary question, Elliot Morley said that 13,058 farmers had received compensation.
On October 30th, while Mr. Blair was busy trying to save the world, an extension to the Animal Health Act was sneaked in to cover that carnage - and much more besides.
In it, powers of entry are extended and slaughter undertaken "for disease control", rather than infection or contact. This is an awesome power, which government seeks to rush through while the UK is (officially) flagging up no new cases, although (unofficially), lorry drivers say they are still clearing carcasses from farms.
Is this proposal compatible with the European FMD legislation or the Human Rights Act? The mass slaughter provision will apply to other diseases and their vaccinates "as the Minister decides" and compensation reduced to 75% of market value, with payment of the other 25% depending on the level of farm biosecurity and "co-operation". That's also at the Minister's discretion and is non negotiable. The proposal also includes provision to enter and slaughter in the owner's absence - provided they leave his premises 'bio-secure and in the condition they found them'. That's OK then.
posted Dec 5

Tourists offered cashback deals
Telegraph

HOLIDAYMAKERS are being offered cashback deals to help the Scottish tourism industry. They will receive £50 for every £250 they spend and £100 for every £500 by VisitScotland, formerly the Scottish Tourist Board. The payments will go to the first 5,000 visitors to Scotland between now and the end of next month. Tourists spend £2.5 billion a year in Scotland, but the industry has been badly affected by the foot-and-mouth epidemic and September 11 and lost £500 million this year. Visitors wanting to claim will be asked for receipts from hotels, restaurants and shops. The offer is restricted to Edinburgh and Glasgow but might be extended to rural areas if successful.
Dec 5

Ministers 'sabotaged' war on sleaze
The Times

BY TOM BALDWIN, DEPUTY POLITICAL EDITOR
THE woman appointed to root out political sleaze took her leave of Parliament last night, bitterly accusing Cabinet ministers, civil servants and the Commons establishment of undermining her. Elizabeth Filkin, the Commissioner for Standards, brought down the curtain on three turbulent years by announcing that she would not reapply for the post which becomes vacant in February. The last chapter of her tussle with Britain's political elite, who had come to revile her, was released in the form of an explosive letter to Michael Martin, the Commons Speaker.
In a damning indictment of the way Parliament had treated her she said that she was no longer interested in a job whose "independence is unprotected and resources are not supplied to ensure justice".
Mrs Filkin complained that she suffered "quite remarkable" pressure during her three years from MPs - "some holding high office" - as well as "unchecked whispering campaigns and hostile press briefings . . . executed by named civil servants".
Dec 5 SEE ALSO

House of ill-repute
The Times

Filkin is the victim of a shameful cross-party campaign
The House of Commons is never more in danger of error than when it speaks with one voice. When it is unanimous, and that unanimity can find expression only sotto voce, the danger is almost certain. An erroneous consensus arose across the House of Commons that the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, Elizabeth Filkin, was a vexatious busybody who was exceeding her brief. That consensus, as entrenched across the partisan divide as it is wrong, has resulted in the House deciding not only to dispense with Ms Filkin's services but to cripple any successor's capacity to perform her job. No justification, save whispered asides and unsubstantiated attacks, has been offered. The initial decision to appoint a Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, Gordon Downey, as an independent watchdog to provide better scrutiny of parliamentarians was an imperfect response to an unhappy situation. Self-regulation had been a cherishable tradition of the Commons. MPs were answerable for their actions to the people at elections, not to the external authority of the Court or any other jealous body. Valuable as that principle has been, the actions of parliamentarians in the decaying period of Tory rule made it progressively less supportable. The inadequacy of the House's policing mechanisms, and the flagrancy with which MPs abused the absence of proper scrutiny for personal gain, necessitated reform if Parliament was to retain public confidence.
That reform, however, was still relatively minor. The Parliamentary Commissioner is a Commons officer not an overseer. She is an adviser and investigator, who leaves final decisions on questions of culpability and punishment to the Commons and its members on the Standards and Privileges Committee. The effective operation of even this limited reform has, however, been frustrated by the partisan actions of the Committee's Labour majority, the abuse of power by ministers under investigation and the instincts of the House as a whole. .....
Dec 5

1.5m animals killed over foot-and-mouth movement curbs
Ananova

More than 1,500,000 animals have been slaughtered as a result of foot-and-mouth movement restrictions. Defra figures show 1,625,652 animals have been killed under the Livestock Welfare (Disposal) Scheme set up in March.
The numbers, given by junior rural minister Elliot Morley, show 945,554 came from England, 108,748 from Scotland and 571,350 from Wales. The full breakdown is: East England 49,871, East Midlands 54,002, North East 61,542, North West 107,176, South East 58,854, South West 252,921, West Midlands 229,672, Yorkshire and the Humber 131,434, Greater London 82.
Dec 5

HOUSE OF COMMONS MEETING OPPOSES "ANIMAL HEALTH BILL"
Sovereignty

On Thursday 29 November 2001 at 1.30pm, over 100 people attended a meeting in committee room 8 of the House of Commons, to condemn the Government's plans for the Animal Health Bill. The meeting was organised and chaired by Mary Critchley of www.warmwell.com It took place as alarm about the Bill mounts in the countryside. Fears revolve around the erosion of civil liberties by the forced entry onto private premises by DEFRA officials seeking to slaughter stock, including rare breeds and pets; the lack of a real scientific basis for the legislation; the position in which it places veterinarians; and the potential loss of income to farmers. The plans have been condemned as both illiberal and unscientific. Sovereignty.org.uk was there, and our reporter, Astrid Goddard, transcribed the speeches. Please click on the names below to be taken to their comments. Each page opens in a new window. ........
Dec 4

Renewed opposition to animal Bill
Farmers' Weekly

By Adrienne Francis
THE government's proposed Animal Health Bill has attracted heated opposition on the letters page of The Daily Telegraph. Alan Richardson of Penrith, Cumbria, condemns plans to introduce powers of slaughter in the event of another foot-and-mouth outbreak. It would "give mandarins carte blanche to kill any animal, anywhere, anytime and for any reason, without consulting a veterinary surgeon. "It is as if the government recognises its past wrongdoing and seeks to legalise it retrospectively." Mr Richardson says the handling of the recent foot-and-mouth disease outbreak was "a debasement of the veterinary art by the paymaster."
He adds that the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) received its charter to look after the public interest. He says that the proposed Bill will not serve the public interest and adds that "another mess is predictable." Instead, he argues for vets to be given more control, if a future outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease were to occur.
"Slaughter of infected flocks [should occur], with contiguous culling only where veterinary surgeons on the spot recommend it," says the writer. He says that this alternative is the only policy that will command the respect and co-operation of farmers.
Foot-and-mouth is best handled by vets who direct volunteer colleagues from practice, while working to principles of veterinary medicine, he writes.
Dec 4

Let vets decide
Telegraph

Date: 4 December 2001
SIR - It is tragic that the foot and mouth disease (FMD) debate is stuck on whether henceforth we should vaccinate or maintain a slaughter policy that has proved a shambles. These two options do not admit of the third: the tried and tested one - slaughter of infected flocks, with contiguous culling only where veterinary surgeons on the spot recommend it. This is the only policy that will command the respect, and hence the co-operation, of farmers.
The recent outbreak was the worst ever simply because it was allowed to become so. We were unprepared, and the response of the bureaucrats was inadequate. The hard fact is that FMD is best handled by trained vets who direct their volunteer colleagues from practice, while working to sound principles of veterinary medicine.
Both main political parties seem to jib at this simple proposition. In the 1990s, the responsible cadre of veterinary officers was reduced to impotence with a few retained as a fig leaf. To cope with the resulting failure, Defra resorted to actions that may have been illegal; expert opinions on this differ.
Where the diagnosis was uncertain, officials stopped vets resolving the issue by laboratory tests and close observation, as was done in the past. Instead they insisted on the vet making a guess - to declare the animals disease-free or to slaughter on suspicion. Because of the risk of getting it wrong, the vet, often foreign, young, inexperienced and without any local leadership or second opinion, opted to slaughter. This was a debasement of the veterinary art by the paymaster; something on which the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) normally takes a stern line.
And the Government's response to the debacle is to introduce a Bill to give mandarins carte blanche to kill any animal, anywhere, anytime and for any reason, without consulting a veterinary surgeon. Clerks and technicians will do it all, with policemen and soldiers to help when things turn nasty. It is as if the Government recognises its past wrongdoing and seeks to legalise it retrospectively. The RCVS received its charter to look after the public interest, its duty being to police the standards of veterinary surgeons.
This Bill will effectively remove from its jurisdiction the people who in future will handle notifiable animal disease. This will not serve the public interest: another mess is predictable.
Alan Richardson, Penrith, Cumbria
Dec 4

Environment 'should not be put before farming'
Financial Times

By JOHN MASON
The government should not become too "green" by putting the environment ahead of farming, a former top civil servant warns today. Sir Richard Packer, the permanent secretary at the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food between 1993 and 2000 and a leading figure in Britain's farming negotiations in the European Union, says environmental schemes should be limited to those of clear economic value. These include programmes in environmentally sensitive areas such as the Lake District.
In a pamphlet published by the Centre for Policy Studies, which argues strongly for free trade principles to be applied to farming, Sir Richard backs the government's efforts to lead reform of the common agricultural policy and reduce production subsidies. He says: "Government intervention to affect profit levels is not desirable or helpful. In other sectors, competition and the market determine the level of profits. Why should farming be different?" But he adds: "What cannot be recommended, at any rate for the foreseeable future, is a policy which seeks to replace agricultural policy with one that is essentially environmental." This would delay CAP reform and waste money, he says. "Over the majority of UK farmland, even spending quite large sums would not in general achieve significant environmental gains." ......... An official said the department could not comment on Sir Richard's warning about environmental policy until the pamphlet had been studied. The official added it was fundamental to the work of the department to enhance environmental policy nationally and across all Defra's activities. Sir Richard criticises the government for introducing one-off support payments for farmers, saying they contradicted the liberalisation policy. "As low farm incomes would be an inevitable result of the policies the government advocates in Brussels, at least in the short run, the government claims to support farmers seem at best incoherent."
Dec 3

Farm inquiry 'will repeat past mistakes'
Telegraph

By Charles Clover, Environment Editor
.... ..... Sir Richard's pamphlet, A Policy for Agriculture: ending state intervention, published by the Centre for Policy Studies, argues that if the cost of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is reduced, consumer prices will fall, public expenditure on agriculture will increase and farm incomes will rise.
He says the only hope is the recent agreement on a round of subsidy-cutting negotiations at world trade talks that began in Doha, Qatar, last month.
Sir Richard is remembered for his free-market views while, ironically, presiding over the Ministry of Agriculture during the time farmers enjoyed the highest level of subsidies they have ever received, in the early and middle 1990s. He also opposed shifting spending towards rectifying the environmental damage that subsidised farming had caused since 1945, which was part of the current thinking in government and among farming and environmental groups.
Sir Richard was rebuked yesterday by Margaret Beckett, Secretary for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, who said CAP reform was "very much one of the top points on my agenda". She said: "The recent progress in Doha shows very much how serious my department is in its resolve to phase out market-distorting subsidies."
Meanwhile, in a submission to the inquiry, landowners have sought to entrench the present system of subsidies by suggesting that farmers should have environmental conditions applied to subsidies, binding them to keep hedges and manage them for wildlife or forfeit their cash.
Both the National Farmers' Union and the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) have previously resisted such conditions on subsidies, a measure allowed for in last year's Common Agricultural Policy Reforms.
But landowners have now broken ranks and said that applying environmental conditions to support payments and further help for rural development - for example the setting up of co-operatives - is the way ahead for farming.
Sir Edward Greenwell, 53, a Suffolk landowner and the new president of the CLA, said ministers were wrong to say that farming should play a smaller part in the rural economy. Though it has had to deal with severe problems in the past few years with BSE, foot and mouth, swine fever, low prices and imbalances between the pound and the euro, the industry remains one of the most competitive in the world.
The CLA's backing for environmental conditions on subsidies will be welcomed by environmental groups, but it may not be greeted with universal enthusiasm in Government.
Dec 3

Alarm at mixed pesticides in food
Farmers' Weekly

By Adrienne Francis
FOOD containing residues of more than one pesticide can be 10 times more toxic than individual chemicals, found researchers at Liverpool University. The findings have prompted calls for the government's Pesticide Safety Directorate to review pesticide residue safety levels in food. Dr Vyvyan Howard said the research suggested unborn children were vulnerable to brain damage from pesticides absorbed by their mothers. The research will help renew calls for a revision of the official safety standards for food, according to the BBC programme Countryfile. The European Commission is about to introduce a new law for baby food, which will set "blanket limits" on all pesticides, for the first time. David Coggan, Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Pesticides, told the BBC on Sunday (2 December) that more research was needed. "The margins between the doses that people receive from eating foods and the levels of exposure that would cause health effects are so large. "We would not expect, even where people are exposed to combinations of pesticides or other chemicals in their foods, that it would cause problems." Government monitoring shows that more then 40% of food contains pesticide residues, according to the BBC.
Dec 4

BSE-proof sheep breeds 'essential'
Farmers' Weekly

By Adrienne Francis
IT is vital to breed sheep resistant to BSE-type conditions to counter concerns that some flocks may have the disease, warns The Daily Telegraph. Beneath a dramatic picture of burning beef carcasses, science editor, Roger Highfield warns that BSE could be present in scores of animals. This follows research by scientists at Oxford University and the Institute of Animal Health.
Dr Rowland Kao from the project suggests that up to 1500 sheep could have been infected during the epidemic's peak in 1990. Mr Highfield writes that if the disease were spread through maternal transmission, today the figure would be fewer than 20. But Dr Kao believes that, unlike in cattle, BSE may spread from sheep to sheep, which he says happens with scrapie, a similar disease. If BSE were to take hold, it could infect a greater number of animals, he claims. "There would be few cases of BSE now, but many more later," warned Dr Kao. "We would be in the early stages of a slow moving epidemic." Sheep were fed the same meat and bonemeal believed to have caused BSE in cattle and there are fears the disease has been masked by scrapie. Mr Highfield says the study shows the importance of a project to breed sheep with genetic resistance to scrapie. Moves to accelerate the programme are being considered, as the original project would take 10 years to have an effect. Laboratory experiments have shown that BSE could theoretically exist in sheep, but the disease has never been found in the national flock. (Comment)
posted Dec 3

Re: Threat to freedoms
Telegraph (Letter)


SIR - The liberties established in Britain over the centuries - from Magna Carta to the Human Rights Act - are the backbone of the freedoms that we enjoy today. This Government's new Animal Health Bill threatens the very essence of those freedoms.
The Bill, which has passed its second reading in the Commons, grants draconian powers to government officials and creates categories of criminal offences that are normally found in countries where democracy is not the system of government.
The Bill grants the right for government inspectors to apply to the court - without any interested parties being present and without the right of appeal against any order made - to enter land, buildings or houses and to slaughter animals.
We are all aware of the many errors made by ministry officials in the recent foot and mouth outbreak, including entering the wrong land and the mistaken and unnecessary killing of animals. The combination of the proposed powers and the human propensity for mistakes does not bode well. Furthermore, for the first time in this country, a criminal offence will be created for anyone refusing to assist an inspector in killing an animal. This will be punishable by up to six months in prison. This could include any member of the public who happened to be passing the scene of the proposed destruction of an animal.
There is no defence available justifying refusal to assist, and the inspector has the power, backed up by the police, to order the public to help. Anyone who seeks to exercise their right of freedom of speech, or in any way demonstrates against any of the actions of the inspector, is also guilty of an offence.
In my opinion, the Bill infringes the following rights granted by the Human Rights Act 1998: the right to a fair hearing (Article 6), freedom of expression (Article 10) and freedom of assembly (Article 11).
I appeal to the members of the House of Lords to reject the Bill when it comes before them. If, however, the Government forces it through, I have instructions from the UK Rural Business Campaign to challenge the Act through the courts, which seem to be the last line of defence in upholding our rights against an ever-increasing erosion of freedom by this Government.
From: Stephen Alexander, London W1

'High risk' foot-and-mouth restrictions to be eased
Ananova

Movement restrictions are set to ease from tonight in the last three foot-and-mouth hit areas of the country still classified as high risk. Cumbria, North Yorkshire, and County Durham will be downgraded to at risk from midnight, to join Northumberland. The change, confirmed by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, will take place barring any last-minute complications.
Rob Simpson, National Farmers' Union north-east spokesman, said: "This is one step closer to foot-and-mouth free status which we hope to get in a matter of weeks." A Defra spokeswoman said: "As of midnight tonight the remaining high risk areas will move to at risk. In the space of a week we no longer have any infected areas or high risk areas in the country.
"The move to at risk means more freedom to move livestock and day-to-day activity, but all animal movements are subject to movement licences and in some cases blood-testing." Defra hopes County Durham and North Yorkshire can be downgraded to "foot-and-mouth free" by the middle to end of December with the Northumberland and Cumbria at the end of the year or in the new year.
Dec 3

UPDATE on KIRSTIN McBRIDE and the "MISTY" CASE
Sovereignty

Kirstin McBride tells Alistair McConnachie: "The authorities had no legal right to kill Misty in the first place because a Form A was never served, they received no written or verbal permission from us, whatsoever, and they broke and entered our locked shed. Therefore, it's not me who should be on trial." Alistair McConnachie writes: The Foot and Mouth scandal has been marked by widespread hurt, horror, and heartache. Of the hundreds of stories of personal loss and tragedy, only a few, however, have been able to break into national view. One of the more widely publicised cases was the killing of Kirstin McBride's pet goat "Misty" on the 5th of April. In many ways, this incident seemed to sum up much of the senselessness and sheer cruelty inherent in the slaughter policy. People were shocked to hear that MAFF, and the police, had deliberately used deception to kill a family's healthy pet goat by breaking into a locked shed, without any written or verbal permission whatsoever, while police kept Elizabeth Walls, Kirstin's mother, speaking in the kitchen. ....
Dec 3

Ministry is given a £20,000 makeover
Independent

By Marie Woolf
Professional image consultants have been hired to give a makeover to the embattled successor to the Ministry of Agriculture in the aftermath of the foot-and-mouth outbreak.
Margaret Beckett, the Environment Secretary, is to pay £20,000 to a rebranding company to invent a fresh look and logo for the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).
A London-based design consultancy, Bamber Forsyth, has won the contract, understood to include instructions for a new logo and corporate look. Mrs Beckett's department has already spent thousands of pounds creating new signs and notepaper after its name was changed from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food after the last election. The designers are expected to advise the department about how it can overcome its predecessor's reputation for overspending and incompetence. But countryside organisations accused the government of an error of judgement. "An image consultant can't turn a sow's ear into a silk purse," said Janet George of the Countryside Action Network. "The reason DEFRA has such a lousy image is it has messed up everything it has touched."
Adrian Yalland of the Countryside Alliance said: "The best way to resolve [its image problem] is not by hiring an image consultant but by getting out and talking to rural people." The cost of rebranding of DEFRA and other government departments after the election is set to exceed £450,000.
Dec 3

Government seeks cut in jury trials by two-thirds
Sunday Times

TWO-thirds of all jury trials - more than 30,000 a year - will disappear under government plans to restrict the centuries-old right to trial by one's peers, writes David Leppard. The proposal to limit jury trial to only the most serious cases was suggested in a report by Sir Robin Auld, the Appeal Court judge, published two months ago. In a move backed by David Blunkett, the home secretary, Auld proposed to streamline the court system by abolishing the automatic right to trial by jury in cases where the maximum penalty is less than two years in prison. Leaked Home Office documents, left in a London pub by a civil servant, reveal that a draft bill is likely to contain the reforms Auld suggested. A civil servant has scribbled in the margin: "Two-thirds of jury trials disappear." Bruce Houlder QC, chairman of the Criminal Bar Association, said that if government sentencing reforms were taken into account, three-quarters of the 50,000 jury trials which take place each year could disappear. "We are fundamentally opposed to the government's plans to remove the role of ordinary people in the criminal justice system," he said. Roy Amlot, chairman of the Bar Council, which represents 9,000 independent barristers, said he backed the use of "mini-juries" of six or nine jurors as a compromise plan designed to save the jury system while cutting costs and streamlining the courts. Both organisations are planning to lobby fiercely against the proposal. ....
Dec 2

Devastation in the wake of foot and mouth Farmers count epidemic's cost as last 'infected status' areas are downgraded.
Guardian

Angelique Chrisafis
..... Yesterday south Cumbria woke up free of the foot and mouth "infected" tag. There are now no more foot and mouth infected areas in England, only a selection of "high risk" counties. After nine months of a disease that has led to the destruction of 5.7m animals at a cost of £2.7bn, the government would like to suggest the nightmare is nearly over. But the stinking manure piled in heaps all over Mr Dunning's farm, as he is prohibited from spreading it, is a metaphor the whole community likes to use for their collective situation: "We are still in the shit." Mr Dunning is an example of a section of financially crippled farmers: those who survived the foot and mouth outbreak, with animals alive. His success at keeping the disease off his farm means that he saved the government around £1m. But he has received no financial support for any measures he has taken. He has not sold a cow since February last year, and has lost almost all his income from livestock, while paying an extra £1,100 a month to feed cattle inside. While farms that went down with the disease got paid by Defra at a rate of £15 an hour to clean up their farms, Mr Dunning has lost £20,000 paying his own workers to help inspect animals during at least 42 Defra vet visits.
At one stage Mr Dunning worked for Defra himself, guiding vets to hefted sheep on the fells. The department promised to at least pay him expenses. The money never arrived. "I'm sick of asking for it," he said. Mr Dunning has 380 cattle, including dairy cows, 600 breeding sheep and 800 lambs that would have been long-sold. Instead the sheep have been stranded in fields with no grass or crops because he has been restricted from moving them 10 yards across a road. He has to buy food for them. The sheep can now be moved, but they have contracted foot rot from the mud in the fields and will not fatten. "I do feel a bit pissed off at the way I've been treated," said Mr Dunning, spraying down the milking tubes. His only income has been milk cheques, but the price of milk is set to fall in the new year. Lambs, when sales restart, will fetch £18 each when they once sold for £45. Farmers complain that when they go into supermarkets they see the meat priced at £10 a kilo.
There are reputed to be 46 "foot and mouth millionaires", after farmers received pay-outs when their animals were culled. Many more dairy farmers - including Mr Dunning - could be millionaires on paper, but this is relative to the size of their businesses. Dairy farming is an expensive way to make money and farmers are finding themselves in debt through restocking.
"What has been termed compensation was actually the compulsory purchase of animals," said Brian Donald, a farmer in Lamonby whose entire infected stock was culled. "Farmers are finding animals that they were paid £10 to cull at the beginning of the outbreak are now worth £20, and they cannot afford to fully restock. ..........
posted Dec 3

MP slams anti-cull protest
Gloucestershire Citizen

Anti-cull campaigners have been accused of a politically-motivated campaign of scaremongering and misinformation by Forest of Dean MP Diana Organ.
Mrs Organ says she has received 14 letters in less than a week, many of which express fears that household pets like cats and dogs will be slaughtered in any future outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease.
Judy Robinson, a spokeswoman for the MP, says the district's Foot and Mouth Action Group was "spreading misinformation and causing unnecessary fear" about the Government's controversial new Animal Health Bill. She said speakers at the group's public meeting, which was held earlier this month at Coleford, suggested the bill was "more draconian than it actually is" and claimed some members of the group were politically motivated.
The row erupted as a group of six farmers from the Forest of Dean and dozens from all over Britain travelled to London today to meet MPs. Ms Robinson said: "At the moment, it seems we are encountering a deliberate policy of misinformation. "The letters we have received suggest speakers at that meeting indicated cats and dogs could be slaughtered because of the Animal Health Bill. "Under no circumstances has it been suggested that cats and dogs or any type of household pets living on a farm could be slaughtered. It's not in the bill and it simply won't happen. She said Mrs Organ, who is part of the standing committee scrutinising the bill, had serious reservations about it and had abstained from voting on it. Carole Youngs, organiser of the meeting, said speakers had highlighted a clause in the bill that "all animals" could be affected. "I think the cats and dogs issue isn't the most important point here, although the bill does refer to all animals," she said. "I think it's unlikely slaughtermen are about to go into private homes and slaughter pets. "The real threat from this bill is to the farming community. It gives the Government the opportunity to move into any farm and cull any animal it likes.
(comment)
posted Dec 3

Peer calls for foot and mouth probe
Yahoo/Reuters

LONDON (Reuters) - An aristocrat says she has gathered a quarter of a million signatures to back demands for an independent public inquiry into what she sees as government bungling of the foot-and-mouth crisis.
Lady Apsley, a 36-year-old peer, hopes to present the petition before parliament next month demanding the probe. "For some reason Margaret Beckett, secretary for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, believes the English are so incredibly stupid that they are going to ignore the government's bungle over the epidemic, but they are not," she told Reuters.
The livestock disease tore through farms for eight months this year..... Officials have said that they are cautiously optimistic the battle against the disease was being won. The last case was confirmed on September 30. Lady Apsley criticised the Labour government for allowing the movement of livestock 10 days after the disease began and said the army should have been involved more quickly. "It's indicative of the supreme arrogance of the government that they didn't act sooner," she said. Britain launched three inquiries in August to learn lessons from the epidemic and to consider the future of farming and the countryside, but Lady Apsley said this was not enough. "The three inquiries are not independent or open, they are hand-picked individuals who had nothing to do with the disease on a grassroots level," she added. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said it noted Lady Apsley's views and were pursuing the inquiries begun in August.
Dec 2

Farm workers leave rock-bottom industry
The Journal

Thousands of workers are quitting the farming industry which has hit "rock bottom", it was claimed yesterday. Figures released by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs yesterday show that in England, 7,800 farmers and farm workers lost their jobs in the year to June 2001. Meanwhile, Government forecasts show farm incomes at 71pc below 1995 levels.
Defra's first estimate of the UK Total Income From Farming for 2001 is £1.8bn, compared with more than £5bn in 1996.
The National Farmers Union said it must also be taken into account that Defra had revised the original TIFF figure of £1.88bn given for 2000 down to £1.57bn. This means the situation over the last few years has been worse than official figures showed. Northumberland NFU chairman Stoker Frater, of Alnwick, who took up his post yesterday, said: "I've kept a diary of our farm prices since 1963 and I can't find a worse price then the ones we received for our lambs this year.....
Dec 2

Anthrax Inquiry Looks at U.S. Labs
New York Times

By WILLIAM J. BROAD and JUDITH MILLER
The F.B.I. has expanded its investigation of the deadly anthrax attacks to include the laboratories of the government and its contractors as a possible source of the anthrax itself or the knowledge to make it, scientists and law enforcement officials say. ..... Separately, a private expert in biological weapons, Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, has recently published a paper contending that a government insider, or someone in contact with an insider, is behind the attacks. Though not an expert on criminal profiling, Dr. Rosenberg, a molecular biologist at the State University of New York, has testified on biological weapons before Congress, advised Bill Clinton when he was president and made addresses to international arms control meetings, including one a few days ago in Geneva. Law enforcement officials said Dr. Rosenberg's assertion might turn out to be well founded, though they emphasized that the investigation was still broadly based. One official close to the federal investigation called the Rosenberg theory "the most likely hypothesis." ...... Dr. Rosenberg, who is chairwoman of an arms control panel at the Federation of American Scientists, a private group in Washington, has argued repeatedly that states, not individuals, tend to have the wherewithal to make advanced biological weapons. International treaties that prohibit that work, she believes, are thus critical. Dr. Rosenberg contends that the Ames strain probably did not originate in 1980 or 1981, as is often asserted, but arose decades earlier and was used in the secret American program to make biological weapons. She agrees with a conclusion, reached by some experts knowledgeable about the investigation, that the anthrax powder distributed in the attacks by letter was treated in a sophisticated manner so it floated easily, as was done in the old American offensive weapons program, unlike Colonel Friedlander's defensive program, which uses the wet anthrax. "All the available information," she said, "is consistent with a U.S. government lab as the source, either of the anthrax itself or of the recipe for the U.S. weaponization process." ....... Richard H. Ebright, a microbiologist at Rutgers University who has followed the anthrax case and has read the Rosenberg paper, said he found it provocative but unconvincing. "This is one extreme in the theorizing," Dr. Ebright said. "There are elements that are reasonable, but elements that are not. I'm confident that she started with the insider conclusion and then selected the facts." Even so, he said, American foes seem likely to seize on the paper and amplify the provocative thesis. "Every state that's hostile to the United States is going to pick up on this," Dr. Ebright said. "They'll say it was an orchestrated government attack, which I don't believe for a second. But you can see people believing it." Dr. Rosenberg's theory is getting attention in Europe, where the environmental group Greenpeace Germany is citing it as credible......
Dec 2

South Korean farmers riot in anti-WTO demo
Ananova

South Korean farmers have clashed with riot police, making fires and throwing rocks and excrement at them. Around 20,000 farmers gathered in Gwacheon and Seoul to protest at the Government's farm policies. The demonstrations were also organised to mark the start of new World Trade Organisation talks. The farmers oppose the WTO's move to liberalise agricultural markets.
The protesters, including members of the Korean Advanced Farmers Federation (KAFF) arrived on about 500 buses and held a rally in front of the Government complex in Gwacheon, south of Seoul, and at the HQ of the National Agricultural Cooperative Federation in central Seoul. They want the Government to pay higher prices for their rice, and reform the nation's agricultural policies, the Korea Herald reports. "Rice has been a lifeline of our nation for 5,000 years, but the Government is giving up on rice farming and driving farmers to death," says Choi Yoo-seop, head of the Gyeonggi Provincial office of the KAFF.
Dec 2

CJD victim dies despite pioneering drug treatment
Ananova

A woman who became the world's first human guinea pig in pioneering drug trials to find a cure for variant CJD died today. Former soldier Rachel Forber was diagnosed as suffering vCJD six months after she began showing signs of depression last Christmas. Within two months the 21-year-old was transformed from an active young woman to being bed-ridden and requiring constant care.... (See also and this BBC report from August )
Dec 2

Even newer Muckraker
Private Eye

The latest brilliant wheeze from the Department for the Elimination of Farming and Rural Affairs (Defra) is to propose that farmers will only be allowed to continue farming under an official licence from the ministry.
This means that, if a farmer offends the ministry, its officials can put him out of business. Even to get the licence in the first place, the farmer will have to pass a test proving that he is 'competent' to run a farm. Not surprisingly many farmers have suggested that a similar test should be introduced for the ministers and officials proposing this scheme. It is after all being put forward by a government department which is now tacitly admitting that it has itself been breaking the criminal law on an unprecedented scale.
Last March, on the advice of Professor Roy Anderson's Imperial College computer, the Maffia introduced its "contiguous cull", under which millions of healthy animals were destroyed just because they were on farms within '3 kilometres' of premises infected with foot-and-mouth. As is explained in detail in Private Eye's Not The Foot And Mouth Report, the officials had no legal power to order such a scheme. They claimed as their authorisation the Animal Health Act 1981. But this only gives the minister power to destroy animals which are infected or which have been exposed to infection. As lawyers soon pointed out, this in no way justified the blanket slaughter of animals under the cull; and in over 200 cases where owners legally challenged the cull, the Maffia lawyers backed off. The last thing they wanted was to see their scheme put to the test of a court case.
But the final admission that they were acting illegally is contained in the Animal Health Bill currently being rushed through Parliament.
The Bill's chief purpose is retrospectively to make amends for this mass-criminality, by giving the Defra officials precisely the powers they claimed already to have last March when the cull was launched. It gives the officials the right to enter any premises, to kill any animal they wish, including dogs, cats and other pets, while denying the owner any right to challenge them. Not only will it become a criminal offence for the owner to question what the officials are up to. It will even become an offence not to give the officials any assistance they request in pursuing their duty.....
posted Dec 1

Boycott the Bill
Telegraph

Date: 1 December 2001
SIR - At the beginning of this year, the veterinary profession was unique among professions in Britain in that it was universally respected, and indeed held in affection by many people.
The outbreak of foot and mouth disease dented that reputation, as we were seen to side with the Ministry of Agriculture in the unprecedented slaughter of farm animals.
What we should have done was refuse co-operation when the Government took control of the outbreak out of the hands of veterinary surgeons and handed it to a Crazy Gang of scientists and computer modellers who were not specialists in animal disease. With a glance at their computer screens, they condemned to death millions of animals.
The new Animal Health Bill amendment will make matters worse. It will give the incompetent Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs the opportunity to hide its mistakes in a sea of blood.
This Bill removes from farmers the right to resist the slaughter of their healthy animals; makes criminals of people whose only fault is their love of their animals; and allows officials to decide that genetic make-up is sufficient reason to condemn normal healthy animals to death.
This Bill will result in a withdrawal of co-operation by the farming community and make the control of animal disease impossible. Here is one vet who will have nothing to do with it. If it is passed, I will do everything in my power to stop the veterinary profession from taking any part in its implementation.
From: Roger Windsor, Collin, Dumfries
Dec 1

Re: Unlimited powers of slaughter
Telegraph

Date: 1 December 2001
SIR - The decision to control foot and mouth disease by culling rather than vaccination has resulted in the needless slaughter of millions of animals.
Particular and serious damage has been inflicted on endangered breeds. Some, such as the Herdwick in the Lake District and Rough Fell on the Howgill Fells, have lost more than one third of their population.
Among breeds of high performance, the British Milksheep has lost half of its population, while numerically scarce breeds, such as Hill Radnor sheep and Belted Galloway cattle, have had losses of 25 to 30 per cent. All these are recognised by Rare Breeds International as of special genetic importance, and a vital part of the biodiversity of Britain.
The Animal Health Bill now presents a threat to the livestock industry that could exceed even the mass slaughter policy applied to control foot and mouth. It gives the Government almost unlimited powers of slaughter in the event of another outbreak of foot and mouth, and is also likely to be directed at sheep susceptible to scrapie, a condition that has existed for hundreds of years with no adverse effects on human health.
Application of the powers in the Bill could result in the extinction of some breeds. Some, including the very distinctive and important Northern Short-Tailed group of breeds, have genotypes that would condemn them to total slaughter. The inclusion in the Bill of references to "exceptional circumstances", which might be applied to save some breeds, is not an adequate safeguard.
The threat posed by the Bill is in direct conflict with the Convention of Biological Diversity, to which the British Government was a signatory. The Bill is based on unsafe science: the genetics of scrapie resistance are not properly understood, and selection against scrapie is likely to eliminate other valuable characteristics.
We are faced with a Bill that threatens important native breeds and the genetic diversity of our national livestock by the political application of bad science. It must be resisted.
From: Lawrence Alderson, Rare Breeds International, Shrewsbury
Dec 1

Vets join farmers against animal Bill
Farmers' Weekly

By Isabel Davies
VETS have joined farmers opposing government plans to introduce powers of slaughter in the event of another foot-and-mouth outbreak. Roger Windsor, council member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, said he would have nothing to do with the Animal Health Bill.
The proposed legislation is designed to give minister more power to order the slaughter of livestock in the event of an outbreak. The government will also gain powers to slaughter, castrate or sterilise sheep which do not have scrapie-resistant genes. Mr Windsor said he was not opposed to a slaughter policy to control the disease, but it had to be a controlled slaughter policy.
"I think [the government] is looking for a new law to hide further mistakes in a sea of blood," he said. "If this Bill is passed I will do everything in my power to stop the veterinary profession co-operating with it." Mr Windsor's addressed a meeting in the House of Commons organised by the website warmwell.com on Thursday (29 November). He was backed by Roger Green, RCVS president, who it would give vets ethical problems because they could be asked to slaughter healthy animals. Claims from ministers that the Bill only applied to animals susceptible to foot-and-mouth were not enough in his view, he added. "The scope of slaughter powers are unclear and any species could be involved for any disease, I believe." Opening the meeting shadow Defra secretary of state Peter Ainsworth described the Bill as unjust and disproportionate. "It confers more powers on the very people who have been found wanting." ..... Organiser Mary Critchley said the event showed that even ordinary members of the public were aware of the dangers of the Bill. "It's based on bad science, bad law and is taking away the rights everyone has fought for. It is an absolute disgrace." Farmer Lawrence Wright, who had travelled from Devon with his wife Karen for the occasion, said the Bill threatened his very livelihood. "The basis of our farm is sheep and this Bill gives the minister the power to kill all of our sheep," he said.
Nov 30

Farmers in move to oust union president
The Times

BY VALERIE ELLIOTT
FARMERS have taken the first steps in a move to oust Ben Gill as president of their national union. The Derbyshire branch of the National Farmers' Union (NFU) has unanimously voted to back an asparagus grower from Lincolnshire as their next leader. Michael Paske, the NFU vice-president, admitted yesterday that he was considering whether to stand for the post. Farmers in Carmarthenshire also believe Mr Gill should make way, and have put forward Tim Bennett, the present deputy, to replace him. Mr Bennett said that he was "too busy working for the industry to get involved in electioneering". Mr Paske, 54, said he was "flattered" that his name had been put forward. He would be the first vegetable grower to lead the union if elected. Sources on the NFU council confirmed that momentum was growing for a change of leadership. Mr Gill was not available for comment, but NFU insiders said that they expected him to seek re-election. NFU county branches have until January 8 to put in nominations for the union's president, deputy and vice-president, but most counties are to meet in the next two weeks to decide their preferences. Voting, however, does not take place until the union's AGM in February and is then restricted to the members of the 90-strong ruling council. Kevin White, Derbyshire NFU chairman, said he believed that Mr Gill should now make way for "fresh blood."
The Times has learnt that many farmers believe that the union would benefit from more visible action instead of Mr Gill's quiet diplomacy with the Government. Some are trying to win support for a two-week disruption to the food chain in the spring. One farming activist confirmed that talks were taking place to organise a 14-day withdrawal of meat, milk and vegetables from the food chain.
Nov 30

Businesses campaign for legal action on foot-and-mouth
Ananova

Representatives of rural businesses have joined a campaign to take legal action against the Government for losses during the foot-and-mouth crisis. The UK Rural Business Campaign has set up meetings for people in the areas worst affected. They claim they have lost an estimated £5.1 billion since the epidemic began in February. The UKRBC's aim is to recover that money by taking the Government to court in what its solicitors believe could be a landmark case. ......... Stephen Alexander, partner of the law firm, said they would be fighting the Government for compensation but the legal action would also grant the country a public inquiry. He said: "The first by-product of a compensation claim is that there will be a public inquiry. "There is nothing more public than Nick Brown and other ministers being cross examined as to their conduct during the crisis." He and Ian Mitchell, the man behind the campaign, called on all those whose livelihoods have been devastated to join together to ensure the legal action goes ahead. Mr Alexander said they will be invoking Human Rights legislation as well as collating evidence to prove that the Government acted negligently and breached its statutory duty. He said: "Defra and the Government gave out continuous negligent mis-statements to the public as to what was going on in the countryside. The UKRBC is also launching a battle against proposed laws allowing the culling of any animal without right of appeal, currently going through Parliament. Mr Alexander said the proposed Animal Welfare Bill ( Animal Health amendment bill) is "one of the most odious and disgraceful pieces of legislation that has come before Parliament" and vowed to challenge it on behalf of the UKRBC if it becomes law. Traders from around England and Wales met in Birmingham earlier this month to found the UKRBC. The group is now rallying members and collecting statements from rural business people, of which about 10 will be put forward as test cases early next year. Each member needs to contribute a small sum to join the campaign to fund the court action. "It can only happen if there's the support of the people who have been affected," said Mr Alexander. "If the support's not there we will go away and the Government has won." ......
The inspiration for the group came from a campaign in Powys, where 400 business people began a group action eight months ago. Chairman of both the UK and Powys campaigns, Ian Mitchell, a chartered accountant from Brecon, who led today's meetings said: "The meetings will introduce local business people, who have incurred severe losses, to the national UK campaign and their legal advisors. "They have endured contradictory Government advice and countless bungled decisions from it and its agencies. "Discussions with ministers have produced nothing. Legal action is now the only way to get justice for thousands of rural businesses." The UKRBC and Class Law will also be presenting their case to MPs at Parliament on Monday.
Today's meeting was being followed by another meeting at the Langston Court Hotel, Dawlish Warren in Devon. The group will then repeat the exercise in Cumbria, where more than 700 people are expected, and Scotland on December 12. ....
Nov 30

Reports due on BSE testing blunder
Ananova

Two independent reports on a BSE mix-up that saw scientists mistakenly testing the brains of cows instead of sheep are to be published.
Ministers ordered the external audits after the collapse of a four-year study into whether the disease had entered the UK sheep flock. The research by the Government-funded Institute of Animal Health was abandoned after concerns about "cross-contamination". Animal health minister Elliot Morley is releasing the reports into the debacle at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. He is being joined by representatives from the companies that carried out the reports, Risk Solutions and the UK Accreditation Service, and the IAH's parent body, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council. The reports are expected to unravel the confusion over how the "sheep brains" being analysed by the IAH came to contain only bovine material. The Government had braced itself for a new food scare after the institute's tests appeared to show that BSE had spread to sheep. But the results were withdrawn just before they were due to be made public, after last minute checks by the Laboratory of the Government Chemist revealed the blunder. Defra admitted the samples had come from the wrong animals but said there was no need to stop eating British sheep meat. (warmwell note: "but"?) Since then, the Government announced that new tests for BSE and scrapie, a related disease, were to be carried out on 23,000 sheep brains. The Government's Veterinary Laboratory Agency will carry out the research next year, in line with European Union legislation.
Nov 30

Foot and mouth controls eased
Guardian

Rebecca Allison
The last remaining foot and mouth "infected area" in Britain was downgraded last night in a symbolic move which signalled that the world's worst epidemic of the virus is finally being beaten. The area south of Penrith, in Cumbria, was re-classed as "high risk" by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs at midnight, theoretically allowing the limited movement of some animals.
The government's decision affects almost 1,500 farms in Cumbria, North Yorkshire and County Durham. It will be possible for their animals to be moved to other "high risk" areas, as long as it does not mean crossing foot and mouth free districts of the country. Sheep are still restricted from being moved outside the county boundary. The decision brings the area into line with the rest of Cumbria which had 843 confirmed cases of foot and mouth. The move followed blood testing of sheep and examination of cattle in the Brough and Kirkby Stephen areas of Cumbria. A few areas in Britain remain either "high risk" or "at risk".
The chancellor, Gordon Brown, announced on Tuesday that the crisis would cost the government a total of £2.7bn. But Defra minister Lord Whitty said: "We are not out of the woods yet. Strict biosecurity is as essential now as it has ever been. With the continued cooperation of everyone, we can ensure that this disease is finally eradicated."
Nov 29

DNA find prompts GM crop ban calls
The Times

BY PA NEWS
Campaigners today demanded an international ban on growing GM crops outdoors, after scientists found DNA from bio-engineered corn in wild maize on remote mountains in Mexico.
Experts fear the accidental spread of laboratory-inserted genes could threaten native varieties, reducing the world's biological diversity. Four of six samples of native criollo corn taken last year from fields in the country's mountainous Oaxaca region were found to contain a genetic "switch" commonly used in genetically-engineered plants.
The study, published in the journal Nature, also said that two of the samples were found to have another DNA segment commonly inserted by genetic engineers.
One sample contained a commonly-inserted gene that prompts the plant to produce a poison effective against the European corn borer, a pest that can harm crops. It was unclear exactly where the foreign DNA came from. Mexico has had a moratorium on new plantings of GM maize since 1998 but allows the import of GM crops for consumption.
Diversity is prized by scientists as a way to ensure plants continue to grow in the face of diseases, pests and climate change. While some plant strains may be vulnerable to one disease, others may have natural immunity that enables them to survive.
Charlie Kronick, a Greenpeace official, said the study showed that it was "inevitable" that native maze would be contaminated by GM crops. He said: "This is proof that it is going to happen and it is already happening, even in countries which do not grow GM crops."
Nov 29

Petition challenges 'foot and mouth cover-up'
Telegraph

By Richard Savill
LADY APSLEY has a message for Tony Blair.
Along with other campaigners for an independent public inquiry into the foot and mouth epidemic, she has no intention of disappearing quietly. A petition she has organised, calling for a public investigation into the "gross mishandling of the crisis" by the Government is to be presented to Parliament before Christmas.
Lady Apsley said at her home, Cirencester Park, in Gloucestershire, that she was determined that the Government should not get away with the "massive cover-up we all know has taken place".
"We simply must not roll over and give up," she said. "We need to learn from the terrible mistakes and a public inquiry is the only way. "The Government is expecting people to give up this campaign, but I am not going to." Lady Apsley, 36, and her husband have a herd of 35 rare Gloucester cattle and a dairy herd of 150 Friesians. Their stock escaped foot and mouth but many of the herds in the county were wiped out.
Lady Apsley has been happy with the response to her petition but she believed it would have been considerably better but for the attack on the World Trade Centre. "The attack, as ghastly as it has been, was a gift from heaven for the Government, as it has taken all attention away from the plight of the countryside."
The petition has more than 250,000 signatures from "townies as well as rurals, who know full well what has been going on and are furious about it". She said the Government had stubbornly refused to accept mistakes had been made. "Ireland, France and Holland stamped on foot and mouth. Why didn't we?"
She condemned the Government's three separate inquiries into the crisis, none of which will be public, as a "whitewash". "It's so insulting....
Nov 29

Cost of foot and mouth tops £2.7bn
Telegraph

By Charles Clover, Environment Editor
THE foot and mouth epidemic has so far cost £2.7 billion, the Chancellor said yesterday. A total of £1.25 billion was provided to compensate farmers for the slaughter of animals, £701 million went on disinfecting farms and £471 million was paid under the livestock welfare scheme. About £156 million went on agri-monetary compensation - paying farmers for differences in exchange rates on support payments which are made in euros - £15 million went on advice and marketing support for farmers and £54 million on grants under the business recovery fund. Some £20 million went on rate relief for farmers, £13 million on matched funding for charitable donations, £18 million on tourism promotion and £4 million on reopening rights of way. Further costs, such as deferring farmers' tax payments, have not been included.
Nov 28

Corn 'contaminated' with GM genes
Ananova

Corn grown in Mexico may have been contaminated with genetically engineered DNA.
Scientists say they are surprised and dismayed at the finding.
Opponents of GM crops say it was only a matter of time and warn traditional crops now face an uncertain future.
Those who support the plantings say engineered crops can produce better foods, medicines and yields.
But Ignacio Chapela, from the University of California at Berkeley said: "This is very serious because the region where our samples were taken are known for their diverse varieties of native corn, which is something that absolutely needs to be protected." In his study, four out six of the modern Mexican batch tested had clear evidence of a common transgenic crop gene. The country's ministry of the environment now estimates up to 10% of its Sierra Norte de Oaxaca species of maize is contaminated. Mr Chapela believes genes from genetically modified crops which spread unintentionally can threaten plant diversity by crowding out native crops.
(warmwell note: The wild maize in question was growing around 100 kilometres (62 miles) from the nearest GM crops. T Blair, please note.)
Nov 28

Government given deadline to reinstate carcass burial site
Ananova

The Government has been ordered to restore a foot-and-mouth carcass burial site which was never used.
Devon's £7.5 million Ash Moor site was constructed at the height of the foot-and-mouth crisis. Three out of 16 burial 'cells' were excavated and lined while a fourth was excavated. Now, Devon County Council has ordered the a scheme to restore the site should be in place by December 31. The site at Petrockstow costs around £20,000 per week to maintain and was designed to hold 400,000 animal carcasses. It did not need planning permission but local planning conditions included one of reinstatement. The council says that should be completed by March 31 next year. The planning conditions said the site should be used solely for the current foot-and-mouth outbreak. Devon was declared a foot-and-mouth disease free area on Monday following a four-month period, ending in June, when 173 cases were confirmed in the county.
The Government has told the council that it would not be responsible to entirely close off the possibility of the Ash Moor disposal outlet because it might be needed in the future. (warmwell note: such pronouncements have a very ominous ring. The passing of the animal "health" bill may well usher in a new wave of animal deaths - with no recourse to law at all for their hapless owners.)

Crops Conf: 'Defra is anti-farming'
Farmers' Weekly

By Tom Allen-Stevens
A LEADING policy analyst has accused the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs of "hanging the farming industry out to dry." Speaking at the Crops Conference near Cambridge, Robert Gooch said Defra's proposals for radical reform of the Common Agricultural Policy are "laughable". "Phasing out support payments will not happen in the next reform, contrary to what Defra ministers are reported to have said," he told delegates. "If the Department had more influence over national farm policy, it would be very bad news indeed for UK agriculture." For 500 years, successive UK governments have embraced free market conditions and encouraged cheap imports, he said.
This is a marked contrast to continental Europe and other economies worldwide where governments have traditionally supported and developed their farm sectors.
It is only through membership of the European Union that UK farmers are now protected from further cuts in farming support, Mr Gooch maintained. "In a breath-taking display of spin, the government has persuaded most people that the current downturn in farming's fortunes is somehow the fault of farmers or the CAP," he said. "There needs to be a reform of Defra's administration and policies if the current circumstances are to be used as the reason for change."
Next year's mid-term review of the CAP is likely to involve compulsory modulation or cross-compliance, he said. This would be good news for UK farmers, he argued, since they are currently discriminated against through modulation, compared to continental competitors.
Nov 28

Relief as virus rules ease
Farmers' Weekly

FARMERS have expressed their relief at the relaxation of foot-and-mouth restrictions in counties which were at the heart of the epidemic. Lancashire, Devon and Herefordshire were granted declared disease-free by government officials on Tuesday (27 November). The re-designation of Devon to disease-free status has lifted "a long, dark shadow", said National Farmers' Union south west director Anthony Gibson. South Devon pig farmers Colin and Vanessa Mills said the change would enable them to continue supplying regular buyers in Wiltshire. A backlog of 600 weaners has built up since restrictions were introduced in February. Farmers will be able to send cull sows out of the county again. David Norman, who has farmland in Devon and Somerset, said he has had hundreds of ewes and lambs "stranded" on rented land in Devon. Freeing up Devon means they can taken home to the farm in Somerset. David Maunder of Devon abattoir Lloyd Maunder warned that the impact of potential exports on lamb prices might not be seen immediately. He said the "clear" status for Devon still has to be ratified by the European Union's standing veterinary committee in early December. ...................... Lancashire NFU said the lifting of the county's disease free status will allow much-needed animal trade with the rest of the country.
County chairman Ken Baxter said the move was a "great relief" and predicted that the north-west had seen the last of the virus. Cumbria is still classified as high risk and will not be declared disease until the end of December at the earliest. ........ Farmers in Cumbria can now bring cattle and sheep into the county from disease free and at risk counties.
Nov 28

Hunting may be caught in foot and mouth trap
Telegraph (Sport)

By Charlie Brooks
IT'S not long until the point-to-point horses and hunter chasers are in action. I am certain the majority of fixtures will go ahead and yet I suspect that Government policy will make the preparation of these horses completely dysfunctional. You can be sure the Government would love to strangle fox hunting (hunting with dogs is a derogatory term they like to use) with foot and mouth disease. I've had the misfortune to meet Government minister Eliot Morley and realised very quickly what his mission is. He hasn't forgotten that the Tories shafted the miners and he won't rest until he's stuck the knife into fox hunting's belly and twisted it. Revenge is a dish best served cold. Mr Morley has waited a long time to wage his class warfare, and then foot and mouth disease came along. The farmers and fox hunting with just one barrel.
We are told that hunting may resume under licence on Dec 17 if it can meet the Government's requirements. Why, I ask the DEFRA (Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs) vet, there's no need for licences in the South of England? Either there is foot and mouth disease around to be spread or there isn't. Why can a man and his dog wander about unmolested yet 10 men and 20 dogs, that is a pack of beagles, can't?
Simple answer to that, she told me. The latter might stress a flock of sheep, thus inducing latent foot and mouth to break out. Wouldn't that be a good thing, I suggested? If it's lying around dormant wouldn't we be better off exposing it? "Eh, as time goes on that argument carries more weight," she agreed.
The DEFRA website doesn't. It maintains that there is no such dormant infection. When the same side starts singing from different hymn sheets, you can generally reckon they are up to something for sure. The campaign for hunting will meet Government officials tomorrow to thrash out the details of these licences. Hunt followers, be they on horse or foot, will all have to fill in loads of forms, enabling Big Brother to keep an eye on them.
............. The Government's veterinary risk assessment experts say there is still a perceptible risk of hunting spreading foot and mouth. A useful device to drive a wedge between huntsman and farmer.
There have been no outbreaks since Sept 30. For how long do we have to accept the wisdom of these experts? Are experts ever politically driven? Even our lightweight, posturing, nomadic Prime Minister has had time to work this out. At the moment, the organisers of the campaign for hunting do not share my opinions, considering them to be irresponsible and not constructive.
They are confident they have an ongoing dialogue with Alun Michael, the Minister of State. They will sit down tomorrow and get hunting going again as soon as they can. As far as I'm concerned, negotiating with people like Mr Morley is about as productive as negotiating with a rapist who has a knife at your throat.....
(warmwell note: this is not the place to debate the hunting issue, but the illogicality of so much government policy is certainly highlighted here.)
Nov 25 posted Nov 27

WorldTrak: EU May Take Tougher Stance Against GMO Opposition
FarmProgress.com

Evidence is growing that the European Commission is determined to take a tougher stance against member states' hostility to GMOs in agriculture. ....... However, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, whose standing is high with many European leaders, has now been urged to encourage a more positive stance towards GMOs. On a visit to Britain the commissioner responsible for the internal market, which covers trade between member states, said it was a "sad spectacle" that just 0.03% of the acreage of GM crops in the world was produced in the EU - despite Europe regarding itself as a major producer of agricultural commodities.
"We want to lead in new technology - and this is a new technology of prime importance," said commissioner Frits Bolkestein. He added that the Commission's particular concern was that the EU was failing to use even the products already approved for cultivation in Europe.
Blair has defended GM crops in the past, ridiculing sections of the British media which branded them Frankenstein foods. However, many members of his own government do not share his views, and in the aftermath of foot and mouth disease and BSE he is aware that an overtly pro GM stance would be out of step with public opinion.
Ironically the Commission's appeal to Blair for help coincided with a decision by a British court to clear of charges of criminal damage two environmental campaigners who had destroyed a GM trial site. The court ruled that they had a "lawful excuse" because they had been unsuccessful in highlighting their fears by using other means. Special to FarmProgress.com by Richard Wright, United Kingdom
Nov 27

Gill may face leadership challenge
Farmers' Weekly

By Adrienne Francis
BEN GILL may be challenged for the leadership of the National Farmers' Union next February, it emerged on Monday (26 November). NFU vice-president Michael Paske has confirmed that he is deciding whether to stand against Mr Gill in a leadership contest for president. Mr Paske, a speciality vegetable grower from Lincolnshire, was asked to stand against Mr Gill by the Derbyshire branch of the union. "I'm very flattered that they should nominate me; it was very kind of them," he told FWi."I will just have to consider my position carefully." Mr Paske, who has until 8 January to decide whether to stand, said it was "very early days" and he would wait until making a declaration.
Derbyshire NFU chairman Kevin White said many younger union members preferred Mr Paske. But he declined to predict the outcome of any election. Mr Gill has been NFU president for almost four years. But Philip Brandon, a member of Derbyshire NFU, said it was time for a change in leadership.
"Ben's done a great job in a very difficult time, but he's been a bit too cosy with the government," he said. "We need a more proactive approach, as we have been pussyfooting around for so long now and the supermarkets are only getting worse.
"But Michael Paske is an ambitious politician and a diplomat, capable of conversing with [Prime Minister] Tony Blair."
Clive Langford Mycock, of Staffordshire NFU branch, predicted his county would support Ben Gill. It will select candidates on 6 December. Alan Roberts, NFU company secretary, must receive written submissions for the next AGM election by the 8 January, 2001.
Nov 26

Princess Anne accuses supermarkets of hypocrisy
Ananova

Princess Anne says hypocritical supermarkets are sabotaging British agriculture. She claims supermarkets accept lower hygiene and welfare standards from foreign producers. She warns that food should not come so cheap as she spoke to students at the University of Plymouth's agriculture faculty. Princess Anne said: "Hypocrisy is not too strong a word to apply. We need to say to the supermarkets and consumers that they are not always right and if they want standards in this country they must apply those standards to food from other countries.
"If the same standards were applied everywhere, with no import or export grants, would it create enough of a level playing field to reinvigorate the UK market, or have the standards applied gone too far?" However, the major supermarkets are claiming they work hard to support the British farming industry.
.......... The Daily Telegraph reports that Princess Anne also criticised fast food, casting doubt on whether it was good for producers or consumers.
(warmwell note: we are very grateful to Princess Anne. She shows far greater courage than anyone in the government in pointing out the catastrophic effect on British farming of the supermarket stranglehold )
Nov 26

Country 'army' to march on The Mound
Telegraph

By Auslan Cramb
(Filed: 26/11/2001) COUNTRYSIDE campaigners are planning the biggest protest march north of the border since the poll tax demonstrations to highlight the crisis facing rural communities.
The organisers expect tens of thousands of people from rural communities throughout Scotland, and the rest of the UK, to join the "March on The Mound" in Edinburgh next month. The event is based on the Countryside March of 1998 in which 250,000 people walked through London.
Allan Murray, director of the Scottish Countryside Alliance, said it would demonstrate the widespread anger felt by people who feel politicians are treating them as "second-class citizens". He added: "They feel they are having to fight for liberties that have been a way of life for generations. We are staging this protest march to highlight the whole range of grievances in the countryside.
"The most common complaint we hear about the Scottish Parliament is that most of the people in it do not understand the issues that are troubling people in the countryside.
"Rural communities are going through desperately difficult times at the moment. We've had foot and mouth, BSE, fuel prices and the most dire economic circumstances in rural communities for more than 20 years.
Nov 26

From Jonathan Miller's Mean Fields column
Sunday Times

A reader passes on an astonishingly patronising and arrogant letter from the rural death minister Elliot Morley, friend of foxes currently demanding greater powers to slaughter dogs, cats and horses. Morley, it will be recalled, has still to reply to my challenge that he provide the name of a single cull resistor who can be shown to have spread foot and mouth. It is an extraordinary, disingenuous, bizarre letter. I will copy it to anyone who is interested.
"Rant away as you see fit," writes Morley to Nick Green, of Cumbria, who has been impudent enough to query Defra's lies. But Green is on to something. The contiguous killing programme of healthy animals was legally dubious and unlawfully executed.
I get a letter of my own from Defra. Lindsey Clothier, a death ministry apparatchik, says I have been "selected" to participate in a survey of agriculture. Inspired by Morley's bare-knuckled style of correspondence, I reply: "Dear Lindsey: My contempt for Defra disinclines me to co-operate with your organisation in any way. I advise you to seek more reputable employment."
Nov 25

Ministry risks 'farm lie' fines
Sunday Telegraph - Booker's Notebook

IT was with mixed feelings that on Friday I saw two of my stories on the front pages of other newspapers. I first reported on October 7 that Britain would face a bizarre crisis on January 1 when, thanks to a hopelessly ill-conceived EU regulation, it would no longer be legally possible to dispose of millions of unwanted fridges.
The European Commission, through its man in London, Geoffrey Martin, did everything to deny the story. Our Government, however, acknowledged the truth of the matter since, as I subsequently reported, it issued a confidential circular to local authorities admitting that they had a massive problem on their hands.
Last week Margaret Beckett's Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs took the grotesque step of advising the public not to buy new fridges until the mess has been sorted out, which could take over a year.
I was less pleased to see Friday's Times reporting a yet more startling letter from Defra. This asked farmers to concoct records of the foot and mouth epidemic of the effects on their herds to give a misleading impression to the European Commission, which is already carrying out a fraud inquiry into compensation payments for the disease.
This extraordinary document was passed from me via a colleague to my old ally the Countess of Mar, for her to raise with the Government. I was somewhat taken aback when she revealed its contents to The Times, which ran the story on page one.
However since neither The Times nor the Countess seem to have grasped the full implications of the letter, it should be set in its proper context.
In August the European Commission suspended its compensation payments to the British Government, after an investigation by the EU's Food and Veterinary Office.
This found significant "irregularities" in our Government's handling of the crisis, not least in paying farmers up to four times the market value of their stock to buy their acquiescence in allowing destruction of healthy animals under the legally-dubious "contiguous cull" scheme. The Commission not only set up an audit of these payments but launched an investigation by Olaf, its anti-fraud unit. Defra sent this remarkable letter to farmers last week asking them to concoct "farm diaries" to convey to Commission auditors that the paperwork matched what the investigators were looking for.
The letter included a sample of the type of entry that farmers should reconstruct describing events during the crucial stages of the epidemic
. When the Commission learns that history has been rewritten in this way, it may well refuse any further payments.
Although Defra and The Times claim that the Commission is due to pay 60 per cent of the compensation received by farmers, this is based on a misunderstanding of the system. It is true that Britain applies for 60 per cent of its compensation bill, currently estimated at more than£2 billion. However 71 per cent of that is then subtracted from the UK's EU budget rebate, which means that UK taxpayers are ultimately liable for 83 per cent of the total. Even though, of the £480 million which Defra has claimed as a first tranche of its bill to the Commission, the UK could at best hope to receive only £139 million, we could now, in view of this latest "irregularity", receive nothing.
This would land UK taxpayers with a large additional bill, plus the possibility of a hefty fine for what looks like our officials' attempt to get round the system.
Nov 25

MPs set to get four-day week with shorter hours
Sunday Times

EBEN BLACK, CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT
MPs are to move to a four-day week and work from 10am to 5pm under controversial plans to modernise sittings in the Commons. Robin Cook, the leader of the Commons and chairman of its modernisation committee, is to abolish late-night votes and all-night debates, which have been a feature of Britain's political life for two centuries. The move to shorter hours, to be set out in a report by the committee before Christmas, will be seen as a victory for modernisers, who claim that long and antisocial hours damage MPs' family lives and deter many women from standing for parliament.
However, it will anger some veteran parliamentarians and opposition MPs, who fear it could marginalise and stifle discussion in the main Commons chamber, where debates on controversial bills can extend into the early hours. Tam Dalyell, Labour MP for Linlithgow and the father of the House, said: "These proposals have the effect of the castration of the Commons as a serious political force. All this business of making it more efficient is a charade. What it is about is neutralising it and making it a rubber stamp. Late nights have a political purpose."
(warmwell note: we feel that anyone who does not share Tam Dalyell's alarm is naive in the extreme. Such a move is entirely logical in the gradual but accelerating demise of democracy. )
Nov 25

(From yesterday's Times) Farmers urged to 'fake' diaries
The Times

BY MELISSA KITE, POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT
HUNDREDS of farmers have been asked to create post-dated diaries to back up the Government's billion-pound claim for foot-and-mouth compensation from the European Union. The move, which was branded a fraud last night, could lead to Europe rejecting part of the Government's claim on the grounds of malpractice.
In a letter dated November 18, a copy of which has been seen by The Times, an official at the Newcastle Disease Emergency Control Centre asks farmers for help in compiling a record of the costs of the clean-up operation to present to the EU auditing team. The letter bears the stamp of the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
It reads: "One of the documents they will require is the farmers log/diary, which is a required part of the C&D (cleansing and disinfection) work that was carried out at these farms. "Due to the emergency and workload placed on the C&D Officer at the time, it was not possible to collate all the information that was required. "I am now writing to all of the early culled farmers to ask for their assistance in writing out the log/diary . . . and I would be grateful if you could help me in this matter." The letter is signed by Hazel Harris, a member of the auditing team. Farmers are told that the log diary "does not have to be exact", just a general guide. They are given a sample diary "for guidance" in which two months of cleaning work at a farm infected with foot-and-mouth is minutely detailed. The letter offers farmers a visit by a field officer should they need assistance in compiling the diary.
Last night the National Farmers' Union said it was astounded by the letter. Jonathan Birnie, its policy advisor, said: "It beggars belief that Defra haven't got these records already." The bill for foot-and-mouth is estimated at £2 billion, of which the Government is entitled to claim back from the EU 60 per cent, or £1.2 billion Ministers have already been advised by the auditors that they may not receive compensation because they did not put sufficient checks in place. Most seriously, the Government failed to appoint regional livestock assessors to oversee the valuations of slaughtered livestock. A spokesman for Defra said the compensation referred to in the letter was in relation to the clean-up costs only. The letter was referred to in the Lords yesterday by the Worcestershire farmer and crossbench peer the Countess of Mar, who said it asked farmers to "fraudulently produce a log" so that the Government could claim EU compensation. (warmwell note: since DEFRA really believes that 'cooking the books' is perfectly in order one wonders why it puts so much reliance on the exhaustive form-filling and record keeping imposed on farmers. When this much EU money is at stake, that makes it all acceptable to the bureaucrats, does it? .... We despair.)
posted Nov 24

Twenty sheep may have BSE, study says
The Times

BY VALERIE ELLIOTT, COUNTRYSIDE EDITOR
SCIENTISTS have claimed that a small number of sheep in Britain might be infected with BSE. Research published in Science suggests for the first time that up to 1,500 sheep may have been infected with the disease at the height of the BSE epidemic in cattle in 1990. The scientific model, however, suggests that just 20 sheep out of a national flock of about 36 million are likely to have the disease this year. (warmwell note: computer modelling is not the same as hard evidence and is only as accurate as the data fed into the programme. One might have hoped that journalists would have made this plain by now after the months of misery over FMDpolicy with its flawed models) The forecast is made by a team from Oxford University and the Institute of Animal Health; the latter is at the centre of an inquiry into bungled brains tests to establish if BSE exists in the national flock. The Government discovered last month that for four years scientists had been studying the brains of cattle instead of sheep. Two independent audits have been ordered. Chris Bostock, director of the institute, was unavailable to comment on his research with the Oxford team, led by Rowland Kao. But the research states: "All indications are that current prevalence is low." A spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, said that the research matched previous laboratory tests that showed there was a "theoretical risk" of BSE in sheep. (warmwell note: But this is just theory put about by SEAC. Where is the real evidence? Are we wrong to question all this?)
Nov 24

Minister rejects epidemic inquiry
This is Lancashire

by Bill Jacobs,
EAST Lancashire MP Nigel Evans is to keep up the pressure for a full scale public inquiry into the foot and mouth epidemic which has devastated the area.
He made the pledge after Farming Minister Alun Michael refused his call for an independent probe in a Commons debate.
The Ribble Valley Tory said a public inquiry was the only way to find out what happened, how the epidemic was mishandled by the government and to stop it happening again. He condemned Mr Michael's refusal to hold an open investigation as "irresponsible" during a special 90-minute debate he called at Westminster on the issue. But the Minister said the government was holding three separate investigations into how the outbreak occurred, how it spread and how any repeat could be prevented. Mr Evans' call for a lengthy and expensive public inquiry was "totally irresponsible" he claimed. But the Shadow Welsh Secretary was very disappointed and said: "I am appalled and disheartened by the response from the government to this debate. Alun Michael degraded the whole debate with his inadequate response. "He clearly has no sympathy for the farming industry which is still reeling from the impact of foot and mouth. "We will await any action that now follows this debate. The government is scared of the embarrassing revelations that might come from this inquiry -- but they should be afraid of another outbreak of foot and mouth. "They were late to prevent the wide spread of this outbreak and their inaction to institute a full inquiry means that recommendations to help stem any further outbreak and lessons to be learnt from the current one will go unheard." More than 50 farmers in East Lancashire were affected by the outbreak and Mr Evans highlighted many local farmers and related industries that had suffered from the epidemic. Local farmers have claimed they have not received enough help and called for a level playing field with Europe over the price of produce. East Lancashire National Farmers Union representative Steve Fawcett has told Mr Evans of low morale in the industry.
Nov 24

Craven foot and mouth restrictions eased
Craven Herald

CRAVEN took another step on the road to becoming foot and mouth disease free this week, when the area around Skipton and Settle was removed from "infected area status". It remains a "high risk" area, the next stage down being "at risk" and finally once all the cleaning has been completed satisfactorily on the infected premises, "disease free".

But, while it is heartening news for farmers who can at last enjoy slightly less bureaucracy - they will find it moderately easier to move animals (under licence) for sale or breeding purposes - for walkers and businesses dependant on tourism, it is just one less restriction.
The decision by DEFRA followed extensive blood testing of farm animals in the Settle to Malham and Skipton areas, all of which proved negative. The move released 2,931 farms from infected area restrictions, although around 300 premises that were culled-out as infected premises or dangerous contacts will remain under tighter restrictions until they have completed secondary cleansing and disinfecting procedures. (warmwell note:even though only 101 of them "had disease"? Why should the other 199 remain under tighter restrictions?) In total around 520 farms were culled-out in Craven, 101 of which had the disease on the premises. Once farms have been cleansed they can wait just three weeks and then arrange for sentinel animals to be brought onto the land. These are then blood tested after a brief length of time to see if they have the disease. Farmers, however, can opt not to have sentinels, but instead wait four months and then restock with permanent animals. Dr Nafees Meah, DEFRA's director of operations said of the latest lifting decision: "This is excellent news for North Yorkshire and is an important step towards farming and tourism industries getting back to business as usual. "The lifting of Infected Area status will go a long way to reassuring people that all the effort expended to beat foot and mouth and the hardship they have endured has been worthwhile." (warmwell note: worthwhile....429 farms had their animals killed unnecessarily but DEFRA's Dr Meah thinks we should be reassured that all the hardship was all "worthwhile". Continuing hardship with bureaucracy, daft restrictions and exhaustion is also worthwhile, no doubt.)
postedNov 24

Farmers get a break as restrictions are eased
Ilkley Gazette

FARMERS in Ilkley breathed a sigh of relief yesterday after foot and mouth restrictions in the area were officially lifted on Tuesday night. Government officials announced that 2,931 farms were being released from restrictions in the Skipton Infected Area, which includes Ilkley and Addingham. Farms which were infected with foot and mouth or were culled as dangerous contacts - including some in Middleton and Addingham - will remain under restriction until secondary cleansing and disinfection have been completed. But the lifting of the restrictions will make it far easier for many farmers to move and sell their livestock.
Stanley Flesher, of Ghyll House Farm, Addingham Moorside, said it was good news but criticised DEFRA for the way it had informed farmers.
"We have just got something through this morning from DEFRA," he said yesterday. "It says we will still need licences to move cattle. There is very little other information on the piece of paper. "You would think an important lifting like that they would give you a nice letter telling you what you can and can't do. It just doesn't explain anything".......
Nov 24

End of road for BSE research?
Farmers Weekly

By Donald MacPhail
A SCIENTIST whose controversial research could lead to an on-farm live test for BSE fears his work could be scuppered by demands from government advisors. Alan Ebringer, professor of immunology at King's College, London, voiced his concerns after MPs discussed his funding which runs out at the end of the year. Prof Ebringer believes BSE is caused by bacteria, placing him at odds with most scientists who blame rogue prions. Last week, DEFRA secretary Margaret Beckett told the House of Commons that BSE advisory committee SEAC had no vested interests in seeing the work end. While insisting that she supports the research, Mrs Beckett said that she had no current plans to renew funding. Prof Erbinger told FWi that he believes Mrs Beckett is awaiting the outcome of an SEAC meeting in February at which he will make a presentation.
But he is concerned the panel may ask for more data, which his team have no funding to provide. "They may say that our data is interesting but requires further material, which would essentially sink our work," said Prof Ebringer.
"If we have no more money, we can't do more research."
After submitting further results to Mrs Beckett at the end of the year, the team will cease to work on BSE. Parallel research into multiple sclerosis funded by a US company will continue.
(warmwell note: we consider this both significant and very serious. See today.)
Nov 22

EU farm ministers agree animal feed ingredients restrictions
AFXpress.com

BRUSSELS (AFX) - EU agriculture ministers agreed measures to restrict permitted animal feed ingredients and ensure diseased animals are destroyed, the European Commission said. The measures will ensure that the 16 mln tonnes of animal by-products produced each year in the EU, which are unsuitable for human consumption, are processed in a safe manner, it said. "This legislation is a major step towards preventing feed-borne food crises such as BSE and dioxin contamination. It makes the requirements on animal feed as stringent as those on food, and sets out clear rules on the animal materials that are excluded from the feed chain," said EU consumer protection commissioner David Byrne. ..... It bans "cannibalism", by which parts of a dead animal or bird are fed to animals of the same species. It ensures that animal by-products -- the parts of a slaughtered animal that are not consumed by humans -- can only be used in feed for farmed animals if they come from animals declared fit for human consumption. It provides that animal by-products contaminated with BSE or scrapie, or with residues of prohibited substances, such as illegal growth-promoting hormones, or with environmental contaminants like dioxins, must be completely disposed of as waste, by incineration or landfill after heat treatment, the Commission said.
(warmwell note: "scrapie"?)
Nov 22

FoE calls for new supermarket code
Farmers Weekly

.... In a new report the group calling for a legally enforceable code of conduct to govern the relationship between supermarkets and supplier. FoE says the major supermarkets which dominate the food retail sector can exert severe pressure on farmers to keep prices artificially low. Food scares and the impact of cheap imports have sent farming to "rock bottom", claims FoE campaign director Liana Stupples. "We must face up to the price we are paying for a policy of cheap food," she said.
"Supermarkets have UK farmers in an arm-lock - we must look at the role of food production in the wider economy, and the impact on our countryside and food quality." The report, entitled Get real about food and farming, also calls for a commitment to scrap the Common Agricultural Policy by 2006. It should be replaced with a sustainable development policy rewarding producers for good stewardship, high animal welfare standards and biodiversity. More support for local food production and distribution would strengthen local economies and provide valuable employment, claims the group. The report calls for food and agriculture should be removed from the control of the World Trade Organisation, the report says. Instead, a new international agreement on food and agriculture should promote and protect human rights to safe, healthy and nutritious food, it argues. "People have a right to decent food at a price they can afford," said Ms Stupples. "The government must act to support this right." A copy of the report can be downloaded from the FoE website.
Nov 22

'Winter floods are here to stay'
Farmers Weekly

By FWi staff
WINTER floods are likely to become an increasingly frequent problem for farmers in coming years, a researcher has warned. Tim Osborn, of the University of East Anglia's climatic research unit, will present his research to the Royal Society on Wednesday (21 November). He found that heavy rainfall for three or four consecutive days has increased by 60% in the past 40 years, reports The Daily Telegraph. "The floods in autumn 2000 were the worst on record in some places," said Dr Osborn. "This corresponds to a very high number of heavy rainfall days." He said that these patterns were likely to have been influenced by climate change.
Nov 22

POLAND: Poland says reassured about EU farm aid
Justfood.com

Source: Reuters
By Marcin Grajewski
Poland said on Tuesday it was confident the European Union will grant its large farm sector generous aid after the east European country joins the bloc, possibly as soon as 2004. Poland's often outmoded and inefficient farm sector is seen as an obstacle to the ex-communist country's quick EU entry, as some of the bloc's current member states fear it would be too costly to absorb under the current subsidy system. Any delays in Warsaw's farm talks with the EU, due to start next year, could also harm membership bids of smaller applicant countries, such as Hungary and Slovenia. German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder reaffirmed on Tuesday that eastern enlargement without Poland was unthinkable. But Polish officials said after talks in Brussels that Warsaw would be granted farm aid, at least partially at the begining, which was crucial for winning a referendum on EU accession among highly euro-sceptic Polish farmers. .............
Nov 21

Attack on GM maize 'lawful'
Western Daily Press

The Government was last night under renewed pressure to review its policy on field trials of genetically-modified crops after two protesters were cleared of causing criminal damage to a field of GM maize.
Barbara Charvet, 59, and Jim Ridout, 26, cut down about two acres of both GM and non-GM plants at Rosemaund Farm, Preston Wynne, Herefordshire, in August last year. A jury at Worcester Crown Court yesterday acquitted them of criminal damage charges, accepting their defence that they had a lawful excuse for their actions. Mrs Charvet, a retired English teacher of Michaelchurch Escley, and Mr Ridout, of Orcop, both in Herefordshire, claimed after the case that the verdict supported their view that GM crops were harmful to the environment.
.......... Peter James, real food campaigner with FoE in Worcester, reiterated his organisation's call for further tests to be carried out on the possible impact of GM crops on the environment, other crops and the food chain. He said: "The Government has to start addressing this issue, otherwise people will see it as 'carte blanche' to destroy these types of crops." Mrs Charvet and Mr Ridout claimed they were compelled to act after their complaints about GM trials in Herefordshire to the Government, supermarkets and MPs "fell on deaf ears". The maize, contained in a 15-acre field, was being tested for its effects on bio-diversity by ADAS Consulting, which carries out work for different organisations, including bio-tech giant Aventis.
Written testimony to support the pair's concerns was provided for the court by genetic and human health scientists, plus specialists in agriculture, bees, pollen, science policy, pesticides and the environment.
But a spokesman for the Department of Food, Environment and Rural Affairs said: "We deplore people interfering with the lawful activities of farmers growing GM crops for farm-scale evaluations. "The whole point of these trials is to test the environmental consequences. "They have already gone through all the laboratory and greenhouse tests and all the advice we have received from independent experts is that there can be no harm from GM crops to human health or the environment." (warmwell note: more "independent experts". As with FMD, the government chooses its independent experts very carefully, and chooses equally carefully which independent experts to ignore. For the present our courts ay least can choose not to ignore "genetic and human health scientists, plus specialists in agriculture, bees, pollen, science policy, pesticides and the environment". )
Nov 21

Farm vigil continues
The Scotsman

ANTI-GM protesters were yesterday given permission to continue their vigil at a crop trial site for another eight months, despite efforts from the Scottish executive to have them removed. A protest camp was set up near Munlochy in the Black Isle in August, after Ross Finnie, the rural development minister, announced a second GM crop trial on farmer Jamie Grant's land. Campaigners have since kept a presence there on land owned by Highland Council. In October, Mr Finnie asked the council to remove the camp, claiming that campaigners were harassing the farmer, but yesterday the council's planning committee backed the protesters, saying they were representing local public opinion.
Nov 21

India's WTO failures slammed
At Times

India/Pakistan India's WTO 'failures' slammed By Ranjit Devraj
NEW DELHI - India's lead delegate to the recent Fourth Ministerial Meeting of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Qatar, Commerce Minister Murasoli Maran, earned praise from other developing countries for his firm stance at the session. But he is getting a rough ride at home. Central to the criticism is that Maran went to the meeting vowing to block a new round of global trade talks until pending issues from the Uruguay Round of talks - including rich countries' opening of their markets to textiles and agricultural goods - were settled, but he appeared to back down in fear of seeing his country isolated at the Doha conference.
"The simple fact is that a new round has been launched, which means new negotiations in a situation where consensus is missing," said Vandana Shiva, a campaigner just back from the Qatari capital. "India has been helpless to prevent the introduction of environmental issues in negotiations and let through the commodification of water unchallenged," said Shiva. Maran, Shiva said, failed to question effectively the removal of quantitative restrictions (QR) on imports of food grains and thus "reclaim" its right to food security and also to bring up the issue of biodiversity meaningfully. She conceded, however, that Maran was doing well at Doha until the developed countries used "blackmail and deceit" to swing things the way they wanted. Shiva alleged that British Prime Minister Tony Blair worked Maran's "capitulation" by contacting India Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and offering India more Western aid in return for not holding up the Doha agenda. Shiva also alleged that the West had very cunningly and effectively used the Afghan war and terrorism to push its agenda down the throats of other nations. "The poor Muslim countries which attended the meet had to go by the West because they were afraid that if they questioned the Americans they would be branded pro-terrorist," she argued. (warmwell note: Vandana Shiva is a highly respected and tireless campaigner, and one who is prepared not only to cut through all the spin to expose the dire consequences for the poorer countries of such measures as the commodification of water and QR, but also to speak out fearlessly against these measures.) ......
Nov 21

Second suspected mad cow case in Japan found: reports
News Asia

A 67-month-old Holstein cow from Hokkaido had tested positive for the brain-wasting disease at a meat inspection centre there, according to the Western Blot test, the Health Ministry said. Further tests at the Obihiro University of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine were also positive. A committee of animal health experts will review the test results later Wednesday, an official said. The cow was slaughtered on November 19 and tested positive on Tuesday.
"We have to investigate the cause of the disease and the government will do its utmost to ease the public's concern," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda said at a regular news conference. "We will hold a meeting later in the day. If the case is confirmed, we will incinerate it (the animal) and do our utmost to ensure safety." The government has been conducting tests on all slaughtered beef since October 18, following the discovery of Japan's first case of mad cow disease in September. In September, the government announced that brain tissue from a Holstein dairy cow raised at a farm east of Tokyo had tested positive for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), causing beef consumption to plunge across the nation. (warmwell note: the economic effect of the first case was catastrophic for Japan's beef and feed industries. )
Nov 21

Total farm regulation scheme proposed
The Scotsman

Fordyce Maxwell Rural Affairs Editor
A SINGLE, all-embracing farm inspection and certification system is being considered by the UK government to improve farming methods. Farming minister Lord Whitty said that the option was being considered to raise standards and also simplify what can be a complex range of regulatory arrangements for some farmers. During a Radio 4 debate on the foot-and-mouth epidemic he said: "It is fairly well established that the standard of farming, and of issues like biosecurity and environmental protection, are variable up and down the country. "At the same time farmers, understandably, complain about the number of different regulators they face... health and safety, environment, the agricultural inspectors, the people who are inspecting subsidy claims and so on. "So there is an idea that we should have a total certification process that would be an inspection of the whole farm, meeting all of these criteria." Whitty added: "There are a lot of options as to how this could be pursued, and indeed whether it will be pursued." ......... Of Lord Whitty's suggestion, Gill said: "If we are not very careful we are in danger of bureaucratically handcuffing our industry to such an extent we will be totally uncompetitive in any market place at all."
EUROPEAN Union farm ministers meet in Brussels today with the sheep annual premium scheme on the agenda and the knowledge that the European parliament's suggestion of a 30 euro per ewe payment, about #18, has been dismissed by the European Commission which is understood to be considering about 21 euros, less than £13. This year's annual ewe premium, with payments related to lamb prices on the Continent, is only about £7. A system for voluntary buy-back of sheep quota is also likely to be discussed. Lifting the export ban on sheep from Dumfries and Galloway and the Borders will be discussed at next week's European Union standing veterinary committee.
Nov 21

Foot-and-mouth culling
The Times - letter

FROM MR ALAN BEAT

Sir, The novel concept of contiguous culling to protect against foot-and-mouth disease (letter, November 13) was first promoted by a computer modelling team from Imperial College with no backgound in veterinary science and lacking any specialist knowledge of FMD. The resulting model has been roundly criticised by those with practical expertise in these areas, such as Paul Kitching, the former deputy head at the Pirbright laboratory of the Institute for Animal Health (Comment, April 26).

The "three teams of independent epidemiologists" to which Elliot Morley refers in his letter have close academic links and are all using the same inadequate data and assumptions as their starting point, so it is hardly surprising that their resulting models are similarly flawed.

Yours faithfully, ALAN BEAT, The Bridge Mill, Bridgerule, Holsworthy, Devon EX22 7EL. alan.rosie@lineone.net November 14.

A new way of life, with a pet cow for company
The Times

Carol Midgley
Phoenix the calf survived the foot-and-mouth cull. But the farm she came from hasn't
...... In a small field next to the Boards' family bungalow one survivor of the massive cull is trotting about with her constant companion, a black horse named Teddy. ....... At the time some Ministry sources made no secret of the fact that they doubted the circumstances of her miraculous survival and a trading standards official said that he thought she had simply been hidden from the cull. The Boards believe Phoenix was given an insufficient dose of the lethal injection and came round after lying doped for several days.
But the public didn't care. Not only was Phoenix a cute white calf, she represented the triumph of sentimentality over government brutality. She was universally loved and got her own website, fan mail, PR agent and requests for public appearances. Phoenix had gained world recognition - a symbol for British farming rising from the ashes.
Ironically, it hasn't quite worked out that way for the calf's owners. Clarence Farm has been in the Board family for 60 years but they can no longer see a way forward. .... "We can't go back to farming now," he says matter-of-factly. "It's sad, but basically it's a lot of work for nothing. I've had animals around me all my life. I couldn't go through this again. There used to be 60 or 70 sheep and cows running around here. Now we have just one horse and a little cow." .......... What depresses the Boards more than the prospect of starting over again is the colossal amount of bureaucracy now involved in farming. "All the red tape really does get you down," says Philip. "For instance, if you want to move some cows from one place to another you have to fill out 'movement forms'. Then you have to disinfect the van, seal it with the cows on board and disinfect it again when you unload them. That costs you £50 before you even start." ...... "Yes, it has changed things, says Michaela. "I don't see (animals) as meat at the end of it as much as I did. I suppose I see them more as individuals, like Phoenix, with a personality. I don't eat very much meat, but I never have done." Phoenix, I say, would normally have ended up on a dinner plate. "She won't now though," says Philip. "No chance of that." ......... "It is amazing, we know," says Philip. "Normally a calf would start blaring after a few hours without food, but we heard nothing. That's why we think she must have been doped. There was a red mark underneath her neck where we think she was injected."
On the day of the cull, a Wednesday afternoon in April, Philip and Michaela herded all the animals into the barn and then went out for a two-hour walk because they couldn't bear to be around the farm. When they returned the slaughtermen told them the deed had been done. The following Monday a MAFF man came to spray the corpses. "He walked into the barn and shouted to us:'Did you know there's a little white calf running round in here?' We couldn't believe it."
A donation has been made to the Green Wellie fund. Donation line: 0247 669 0587
Nov 20

Farmers face test for certificate to stay in business
Telegraph

By Robert Uhlig
FARMERS could have to pass a certification process to continue in business, the farming minister Lord Whitty said yesterday.
The certificate forms part of plans on the future of livestock and arable farming being considered by the Government and would replace current health and safety, environment and agricultural inspections with a single all-encompassing examination.
The National Farmers' Union said the proposals, being examined following the foot and mouth outbreak, would end up "bureaucratically handcuffing" the industry, making it totally uncompetitive.
Lord Whitty said: "It is fairly well established that the standard of farming, and of issues like biosecurity and environmental protection, are variable up and down the country. "At the same time farmers, understandably, complain about the number of different regulators they face. So there is an idea that we should have a total certification process that would be an inspection of the whole farm, meeting all of these criteria, and that you would therefore have a whole farm certification."
Ben Gill, president of the National Farmers' Union, said the proposals did not address the main issues thrown up by the foot and mouth and classical swine fever outbreaks. He said it was not "a necessary step forward" because farmers are already subjected to several levels of bureaucratic control and this information did not aid the handling of the crisis. Officials dealing with the outbreak were often frustrated by inadequate access to information on the location and layout of farms, on trade between farms, on veterinary information and on details of the number of livestock held by each farm. He also disputed the suggestion that farmers had an unsatisfactory record on the animal welfare and environmental fronts.
Nov 20

Professor Fred Brown OBE FRS Undergoes Triple Bypass Surgery
FMD Forum

Professor Fred Brown collapsed with a heart attack on Plum Island, USA on Tuesday 13th November. It is with great relief that we learn that he is now making a good recovery in a New York hospital, having undergone triple by-pass surgery.

Those who have had the privilege of meeting Professor Brown and the audiences he has addressed, will vouch for the passion and integrity with which he imparts his incomparable lifelong knowledge of the scientific study of Foot and Mouth disease.
Throughout this disastrous epidemic, Professor Brown, whose razor sharp mind underlies a diplomatic, mild mannered approach, has been only too aware of the mistaken or ill conceived policies being followed. Sad to say, the frustration that this has caused him, and other learned scientists in the field whose ideas and offers of help have been consistently disregarded, misrepresented or sidelined, has undoubtedly been a contributory factor to his sudden illness.
His ability to contribute has finally been acknowledged - albeit after the event - and he has been chosen as a member of the Royal Society's Inquiry. This has given great comfort and hope to us in the FMD Forum, as indeed to many others, because he is, in fact, the only panel member out of all three sub-divisions who has a profound knowledge of the disease. Therefore, it would be extremely unfortunate should ill health force Professor Brown to resign. Let us hope this does not happen, but if does, it is vital that he has a say in the appointment of a like-minded successor.
See also the e-mail message received from the FMD Forum
Nov 19

Farming union boss calls for vaccination research
Ananova

The leader of the country's biggest farming union is calling for urgent Government investment to develop a new vaccine to combat foot-and-mouth disease. Earlier this year National Farmers' Union president Ben Gill opposed plans to vaccinate animals during the crisis. But today has told a BBC Radio programme that there is a need for worldwide research to develop a vaccine. Mr Gill, who has been criticised by many farmers for his opposition to vaccination, blames the treasury for not properly funding basic research.
"It's the treasury who put the pressures on MAFF (the former Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food) over the years that have cut back the basic research in this country that we should have had to fulfil the people's expectation. "When I've been and talked to other world authorities, they are more than willing, very keen, to ensure that the research to deliver the vaccines and proper control methods are co-ordinated on a world basis." Elliot Morley, the Government minister who served at MAFF and is now at its successor, the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), says he never wanted to see a repeat of the mass culling of animals that had happened this year. "Of course there might be things we want to do differently in the future. We are having a big conference in Belgium on things like vaccination for instance. "We are investing in new science and new tests and that might be very helpful in the future," he said. "My opinion is that I don't want to see culling on this scale again."
(warmwell note: we are interested to note that these two arch architects of the carnage are busy blaming the Treasury, deploring the slaughter and backing vaccination, now that they see which way the wind is blowing.
Reminder BBC Radio 4 You and Yours at midday today)

Nov 19

Stores blamed for organic woes
Farmers Weekly

By Alistair Driver
FARMERS are missing out on the UK organic boom because supermarkets increasingly dominate the sector, the Soil Association claims. A report published by the organic body on Monday (19 November), says the UK is the fastest-growing organic market in Europe. But supermarkets - which saw their market share increase from 74% to 80% in the past year - import three-quarters of their organic food. And where they do use domestic suppliers, they are not paying them enough, claims the Organic Food and Farming Report 2001. Many small organic businesses are questioning whether they can continue, says Soil Association director Patrick Holden. "On top of the burden of foot-and-mouth, many producers have been affected by growing price pressure from the supermarkets," said Mr Holden. The report says that insufficient government support is adding to the problems, and calls for "urgent action" from ministers, retailers and consumers. UK organic sales grew by a third to #802 million in the past year, with three-quarters of households making at least one organic purchase, claims the report. The area of fully organic land more than doubled to 240,000ha, while the number of companies licensed to produce organics have risen by 50% to 1675. Despite this boom, UK farmgate sales were worth just #100m in the past year - about 12.5% of the value of the retail market. Mr Holden calls for retailers to show greater loyalty to domestic suppliers and pay them prices that reflect the true cost of production. He urges the government to "back up its warm words with concrete action" to move the UK market away from being import dependent. Mr Holden says UK farmers have struggled to compete with producers enjoying more generous subsidies elsewhere in the EU. He calls for environmental stewardship payments and for ministers to encourage organic food consumption in hospitals, schools and other institutions.
Nov 19

Farming Today and You and Yours stage a public inquiry into the key issues.
BBC Radio 4 page

The Inquiry
The Radio 4 Foot and Mouth Inquiry will ask: How did an outbreak of a disease in farm animals escalate into a national crisis costing the taxpayer £billions? An expert panel will take evidence from key players in the foot and mouth story including Animal Health Minister, Elliot Morley and Ben Gill, President of the NFU. Members of the studio audience - all of them with first hand experience of the issues - will contribute to the discussion.
The Experts The panel of experts will be Professor Hugh Pennington, Professor Ian Mercer and Brigadier Alex Birtwhistle.
Professor Hugh Pennington of Aberdeen University chaired the Pennington Group inquiry into the 1996 outbreak of E.Coli 0157 infection in central Scotland. He is an adviser to the Food Standards Agency in Scotland.
Professor Ian Mercer CBE is Secretary General of the Association of National Park Authorities. He lives in Devon and recently chaired that county' s inquiry into Foot and Mouth Disease. Brigadier Alex Birtwhistle commanded the troops who were charged with implementing the Government' s foot and mouth slaughter and disposal strategy in Cumbria earlier this year. Now retired from the Army he works as a consultant and lives near Lancaster.
The Programme You can hear The Radio 4 Foot and Mouth Inquiry at 12.00pm on Monday 19 November. On Tuesday 20 November at 12.30pm Call You and Yours will be devoted to your responses to the programme. You can call 0870 010 0444 - Lines will be open from 10.00am.
Nov 19

Farmers angry at new French lamb demand
The Times

BY VALERIE ELLIOTT,
FARMERS trying to resume the lamb export trade to France, which was worth up to £15 million a month, have been dealt a new blow by the French.
The French Food Standards Agency is demanding the removal of spinal column from exports of British lamb more than six months old from January 1. The measure is seen as an extra protection for consumers against BSE-linked brain diseases, but farmers in Britain are angry about the added cost. They say French sheep farmers gained from the absence of British lamb during the foot-and-mouth epidemic and are trying to hold on to the market.
Margaret Beckett, the Rural Affairs Secretary, will attend a meeting of the EU Agriculture Council in Brussels tomorrow and is anxious to hear the views of David Byrne, the EU' s Food Safety Commissioner. The current EU ruling is for the spinal column to be removed from one-year-old lamb and only the French are demanding this extra protection for consumers under the precautionary principle. British farmers say that to absorb the cost of the cutting process at abattoirs they will be forced to accept lower prices for the meat, although the National Farmers' Union has not yet estimated the total cost. More crucially, this is an extra hurdle at a time when export trade, stalled by foot-and-mouth, is about to resume.
The Food Standards Agency in London said that there was no new scientific evidence available to warrant such a change of rules. Marie Agnhs Vibert, the agriculture attachi at the French Embassy in London, said:"Britain introduced its own rules on BSE before anyone else and now we are doing the same. This is not an action to defend markets, for the move has caused equal concern to our farmers and lamb industry."
There has been no proof that BSE exists in sheep and tests that the Government ordered on sheep brains from the 1990s ended in a debacle last month when scientists discovered they were working on cattle brains instead of material from sheep.
(warmwell note: we are rather baffled by the messages that seem to be coming from the FSA and SEAC. In Britain there is apparent anxiety that research into BSE in sheep is urgently required, that scrapie in sheep must, for some reason, be eradicated, yet when France shows concern there is "no new scientific evidence available". One can only assume the FSA and SEAC are implying, "Yet")

Nov 19

Farmers may need licence to farm
Guardian

James Meikle
Britain's farmers might need a "licence to farm", and risk being struck off a new national register if they fail to prove their competence to raise livestock or grow crops, under proposals being considered by government officials and advisers.
Those wanting to sell animals for food would also have to buy minimum levels of insurance against loss from disease before they were allowed to trade.
And a new "Domesday Book" of farmland, which still occupies three-quarters of the UK land mass, seems certain to be compiled. This may include maps of fields and livestock units as well as detailing numbers of animals and humans working with them. Officials trying to stem the foot and mouth outbreak felt overwhelmed by the lack of information on numbers of animals, trade between farmers, and veterinary health, as well as the exact location and layout of farms. They were also surprised by the number of farmers who had not protected their businesses through insurance, nor invited vets on to their farms for years.
.......... Failure to obey pollution controls or other environmental rules might also bring bigger penalties. Officials are considering how bans could be imposed on businesses rather than individuals, and whether partial bans, with only parts of farms barred from particular uses, would be possible.
No one knows exactly how many farms there are. There are thought to be about 146,350 "main holdings" in England and Wales and around 353,000 farmers, partners, directors and spouses associated with farming in the UK as a whole. There are another 200,000 farm workers. Getting details of "hobby farms" or smallholdings could be an administrative nightmare.
Some registers already exist, including for those who get EU subsidies on livestock and cereals, but they are not well coordinated. There are thousands of pig and poultry farms that are not registered. Ian Gardiner, deputy director of the National Farmers' Union, said: "On the animal disease side, we need to know far better where animals are at any time." But he added that farmers would be anxious to avoid unnecessary bureaucracy.
The government's farm animal welfare council has suggested farmers should prove themselves competent to keep livestock and that those who fail to comply with welfare codes should lose their right to subsidies. Julia Wrathall, deputy head of farm animals at the RSPCA, said: "If you are a dog breeder and you have two or three breeding bitches, you need a licence. If you have 300 breeding sows or ewes, you do not."
Nov 19

Chaos blamed on bureaucracy
The Scotsman

Carol McLaren
BUREAUCRATIC over-load is creating "absolute chaos" in the administration of the autumn livestock movement licensing system in Cumbria, generating huge frustration among farmers anxious to re-stock their farms. Producers in the county - the region hardest hit by the foot-and-mouth epidemic- this week voiced their exasperation at the myriad problems affecting them, from problems with lost and duplicate licenses to lengthy delays in issuing documentation. At an NFU meeting in Penrith, one farmer described the experience of foot-and- mouth as a trip "to hell and back", with difficulties far from over. In fact, said NFU group secretary Nick Utting, farmers ' problems are worsening: "We are still suffering from civil servants who can't agree among themselves what is right and what is wrong for the county. We feel we are not getting anywhere. "There are so many issues to be solved and the frustration is that it is people in London who are making the decisions for us." ........
Nov 18

'A disgrace of huge magnitude'
Yorkshire Post (letters)


From: John Roberts, St Johns Court, St Johns, Wakefield.
Sir, - I doubt if the letter from Elliot Morley (November 8) defending the new Animal Health Bill will convince many, least of all the farmers. The patronising tone of: "It's time to be grown-up about animal disease" is an insulting attempt by this Government to shirk its responsibilities. I'm sure he has a point regarding the illegal movement of animals, but this does not exonerate the Government, who coined the overall strategy.
Yes, you did indeed put a great deal of energy into the crisis, but it was largely misplaced energy. What was so clever about a wasteful scorched-earth policy of slaughter? We must be a very affluent country to allow this.
It is what he does not speak about in his letter which is most telling; notably the monstrous cull of healthy animals. Was it really necessary, Elliot Morley? There's an old saying: "If you find that you are digging yourself into a hole, then stop digging."
This new Bill is an attempt to cast the blame elsewhere and give the Government a watertight let-out in the future. It will crush any opposition; having said that, they didn't do a bad job stifling opposition in any case, did they?
The foot-and-mouth crisis has been a lethal cocktail of folly, self-interest, Government ineptitude and spinelessness, waste and wanton cruelty, both to human beings and animals.
In short, a disgrace of huge magnitude.
From: John Piper, West Burton, Leyburn, North Yorkshire.
Sir, - I refer to the disgraceful letter from Elliot Morley (November 8) in which he blames farmers for the spread of foot-and-mouth disease. He accepts no responsibility for the Government or MAAF.
They have some very uncomfortable questions to answer. After the outbreak in 1967 certain procedures were to be followed on the next occasion an outbreak occurred. The initial delay, as highlighted by Prof Mark Woolhouse, was the most crucial factor.
The time lag thereafter between notification and slaughter was often three to four days during which it was estimated two to three more farms were infected.
There are other questions which should be addressed, which is why a full public inquiry is so necessary.
From: JW Buckley, Aketon, Pontefract.
Sir, - What an illustrative letter from Elliot Morley (November 8) on the Animal Health (prevention of farmers asking questions) Bill.
Elliot Morley speaks of working together to eradicate disease, but is only prepared to do so on his own terms.
The Animal Health Bill is there for one reason - to stop people questioning Government. All this, remember, against the background of the Government's actions on foot-and-mouth being highly questionable, and Government ducking and weaving and throwing red herrings about to avoid the issue.
From: Diana Wallis, MEP, Land of Green Ginger, Hull.
Sir, - The emerging story of Government mismanagement of the foot-and-mouth crisis confirms my view that agricultural matters such as these are better dealt with at a much more local level.
In Wales, for example, the decisive action of the Welsh Assembly limited the foot-and-mouth outbreak there. The quick response to the outbreak in Wales contrasts with that in England, where it took nearly three weeks before a co-ordinated and concerted approach was taken.
If Yorkshire, too, had a regional assembly, I believe we would have been much quicker out of the blocks than the Whitehall-based mandarins in supporting rural communities.
With the issue of flooding also on the agenda, wouldn't it be so much better to have a devolved regional body able to co-ordinate all the agencies and deal coherently with these sorts of problems in times of crisis and alleviating much of the frustration felt by people in Yorkshire?
From: Roger Wilson, Park Close, Melbourne, York.
Sir, - So Elliot Morley (Letters, November 8) perceives that the major cause of the spread of foot-and-mouth disease is everybody else's fault except the Government's and MAFF (DEFRA).
The huge drain on resources and costs was primarily caused because the powers-that-be did not, and still do not, have a national disaster or contingency plan for virulent diseases such as this.
No, Elliot Morley. What the public require is not some obscure independent inquiries. Put your money where your mouth is, stop these accusations, and let's have a full public inquiry. Perhaps then, and only then, will the full truth be known.
From: Ken Holmes, South Duffield Road, Cliffe Common, Selby.
Sir, - A spokesman for DEFRA says that their licensing system is very complex. No doubt about it, it is. But who created the complexity? It certainly wasn't the ones suffering from it - farmers.
posted Nov 18

Welsh farmers reject animal health bill
icWales

The Farmers' Union of Wales has rejected the Government's new Animal Health Bill - because the union doesn't believe that DEFRA should be given any more powers at present. The new Animal Health Bill proposes to give the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs powers to force farmers to comply with livestock culls in the event of another disease outbreak, such as foot and mouth. The FUW believes that arbitrary powers coupled to the lack of an appeals procedure could breach EU law and the Human Rights Act. "Giving DEFRA even more powers over the lives of farmers before establishing why the disease spread out of control so quickly is like putting a five year old behind the wheel of a Ferrari," said Alan Gardner, who chaired a joint meeting of the union's livestock and hill farming committees. "The only way to resolve this difficult issue is for the Government to order a full public inquiry into this year's foot and mouth epidemic so that errors can be pinpointed and lessons learned," he said. "Until such an inquiry is held it would be foolish to grant DEFRA any more powers."
posted Nov 18

A fishy problem solved
Booker's Notebook Sunday Telegraph

...to make way for the Spanish fleet, the European Commission, abetted by the UK government, has been relentlessly tightening the screw on Britain's own fishermen, trying by every regulatory means to force as many as possible out of business. So draconian have fishing restrictions become that the owners of 215 Scottish whitefish vessels, a third of the Scottish fleet, have now applied to have their boats to be destroyed. The £25 million allocated will only be enough to pay off a fraction of the fishermen. Hundreds will simply have to look for other jobs without compensation. In the south-west of England, Margaret Beckett's fisheries department has adopted a less costly tactic. Next month it is to bring 200 technical charges concerning alleged illegal fish landings against 25 people connected with eight vessels in Brixham and Plymouth. Since fines on each charge can be unlimited, Mrs Beckett's officials must be hoping that eight more British boats will no longer be on the register by 2002. No doubt Sir Edward Heath, who in 1973 handed over the richest fishing waters in the world as a "common European resource", will be equally pleased it is all working out so well. (warmwell note: it is impossible not to see parallels between this heartless piece of Defra chicanery and the foot and mouth policies)
Nov 18

Mass testing to trace BSE
BBC

Around a quarter of a million cattle are to be tested for BSE to discover the extent of the disease in the national herd, according to a government adviser. The new programme, in line with a European Union directive, will cost the government £50m. The scheme follows criticism from leading scientists that the scale of the existing sample programme is not big enough. One million animals are tested in France and Germany each year
The government has also announced that more than 20,000 sheep brains will be tested for signs of BSE and scrapie.
This follows revelations last month that a four-year study by the Institute of Animal Health into whether sheep could contract BSE was abandoned, after it emerged scientists had been testing material from cows' brains. Professor Roy Anderson, who has also advised ministers on foot-and-mouth disease, believes the true extent of BSE may not be known in the UK, because so few animals are tested compared with other European countries. The latest laboratory results showed less than 1% of cattle tested were showing BSE. But only 10,000 cattle have been tested for BSE this year in Britain compared to almost one million animals tested by both France and Germany every year.
Most UK samples are from animals that have died as a result of accidents or disease, or those that are more than 30 months old. Experts say these animals might be more susceptible to the disease and that could distort the figures. Professor Peter Smith, chairman of the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee (Seac) which advises the government on BSE, told BBC Radio Four's Farming Today programme the scale of testing is to be dramatically increased to 250,000 cattle over the next year. Junior environment minister Elliot Morley, in a Commons written reply on Friday, said the sheep tests would also take place next year. The government's Veterinary Laboratory Agency will carry out tests on 23,000 sheep brains for signs of transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) - the disease family which includes BSE and scrapie. Like scrapie in sheep and CJD in humans, BSE attacks the brain, leaving it riddled with holes like a sponge.
Scientists will test 20,000 brains from animals culled at abattoirs and 3,000 from animals who have died on farms. An Environment Food and Rural Affairs Department spokesman said: "This is something that is happening European Union-wide. There is still a lot that we need to discover about TSEs."
(warmwell note: Alan Ebringer, professor of immunology at King's College, London believes that BSE is caused by the acinetobactor calcoaceticus bacterium . SEAC maintains that the cause is rogue prions and has suppressed findings byanother researcher, the independent Mark Purdey that suggests otherwise. Now, Professor Ebringer's funding runs out on 31 December and SEAC has postponed the consultation they were due to have with him until next February. " There is still a lot we need to discover about TSEs provided it fits in with our own way of looking at this" would have been a more accurate statement from DEFRA and SEAC Prof Ebringer believes that if BSE is an auto-immune disease it would mean that British beef is safe, and that the mass slaughter of cattle over 30 months of age and other measures costing the taxpayer several billion pounds, were unnecessary.)
Nov 17

Flying school farmer faces eviction
Farmers Weekly

A NORFOLK farmer who also runs a flying school and livery stables claims she is being threatened with eviction because she earns some money outside agriculture.
Kay Mason farms 34ha (85 acres) near Norwich and planning permission for her farmhouse granted on the condition that the occupier was wholly engaged in agriculture. In addition to the farm, Mrs Mason owns a flying school at the city's airport and a livery stable. Her land has an airstrip that has been used for 30 years by a local flying club.
But Broadland District Council has said Mrs Mason was not complying with a planning regulation restricting occupancy to someone wholly engaged in agriculture. It is considering whether to take legal action to force compliance with the agricultural restriction on the farmhouse. Eviction is one option lawyers are investigating. A Broadland council spokesman said: "There is no dispute that there is a planning contravention. We have to decide what action is taken in response." But Mrs Mason said: "If this goes ahead it would put a questionmark over the future of many farms with similar restrictions where the farmers are trying to diversify. "In the present climate it would be impossible for any farmer to earn a living entirely from running this holding." Although Mrs Mason owns her farm, tenant farmers face similar problems.
The Tenant Farmers' Association has called on the government to change its definition of agriculture so more farmers can diversify.
posted Nov 17


Beckett denies stifling BSE research

By Donald MacPhail
RURAL affairs secretary Margaret Beckett has denied that there are moves to suppress controversial BSE research - despite having no plans to renew its funding. She was responding to a question in the House of Commons concerning funding for work by Alan Ebringer, professor of immunology at King's College, London. Prof Ebringer believes that BSE is caused by the acinetobactor calcoaceticus bacterium - placing him at odds with most scientists who blame rogue prions. His funding runs out on 31 December, and a presentation Prof Ebringer was to make to government BSE advisors SEAC has been put back until next February. Labour MP Tam Dalyell asked Mrs Beckett if SEAC had "vested interests" in seeing Prof Ebringer's work come to an end. But speaking on Thursday (15 November), the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs secretary said she was "not aware of any such interest". Mrs Beckett said Defra supported Prof Ebringer's work, but admitted that there were no plans to renew funding. "Although I have no current plans to extend that funding, there is no question of the research being in any way suppressed; it is supported," insisted Mrs Beckett. "We shall keep the funding issue under review," she added. Conservative rural affairs spokesman Peter Ainsworth said Prof Ebringer's work deserves support and that "his findings deserve to be taken very seriously indeed". He asked if Prof Ebringer's research only emphasises the need for Mrs Beckett to take account of scientific opinion beyond her own advisers at SEAC. "Scientists show a natural reluctance to alter their opinions once they have reached a decision and published it," he claimed. Mrs Beckett insisted that Defra tried to keep an open mind "as SEAC itself does", and "tries not to stifle an interesting new theory, wherever it may come from". ( warmwell note: the notion that either Defra or SEAC has an open mind appears full of holes - a transparent spongiform hyperbole) Prof Ebringer says his work could lead to a BSE test for live cattle.
Nov 16

Survey reveals net-savvy farmers
Farmers weekly

ALMOST two-thirds of British farmers recently surveyed by the National Farmers Union are online - a far cry from the image of producers as country-bumpkin technophobes, claims the survey. The poll, sent to 1000 farmers and posted on the membership website NFUnet, also found that over 70% of online farmers surf the Internet at least once a day. NFU president Ben Gill said: "We live in a world where speed in obtaining the latest information is the key to success. "As the Internet grows in value, more and more farmers are seeing real business benefits from becoming Internet-savvy." Internet use among regular surfers increased by 69% during foot-and-mouth, when many farmers relied on it for information, the survey found. "The Internet was particularly crucial during the height of the foot-and-mouth crisis, when many farmers were isolated," said Mr Gill. "It also provided a virtual platform for advice and for members to come together and support each other." More businesses are exploiting the Net to trade goods, with a wide variety of businesses online, from farm holiday accommodation to essential oils. Almost all online farmers said they used the Internet for information with 60% accessing it for news and 32% for buying goods. But farmers do have some concerns about using the Internet, with 42% saying they did not have enough time, the survey found.
Nov 16

Blunkett's in a Right state
Mirror

DAVID Blunkett is under great stress, according to his close advisers.
I should hope so, too. The Home Secretary is single-handedly closing down centuries of freedom in this country by taking powers of detention without trial. Naturally, he says his version of internment will affect only a few foreigners whom the security services suspect of having terrorist links. And they will have a right of appeal to a special tribunal. That isn't the point. Blunkett is breaching a basic right of everyone in this country, native or alien, not to be locked up without a fair trial at which evidence of guilt is produced - and challenged. Even before he takes these powers, the Home Secretary has declared a state of public emergency, so that he can abrogate the European Convention on Human Rights. This is not just any old state of emergency, like the short-lived numbers we had during the pit strikes of the 70s. It is a permanent, open-ended arrangement which will allow the government to take all sorts of powers over us, the people. It stinks. So does the rest of this mammoth 125-clause Bill the thickness of a telephone directory. Hard hats in the Home Office are using the events of September 11 as a smokescreen to smuggle in all kinds of interfering, repressive measures. For instance, the police will have authority to order people to remove gloves, balaclavas and face paint. Hang on a minute. Face paint? Gloves? These powers are not being introduced to deal with international terrorists. They are aimed at British protesters over animal rights, global capitalism and other contentious issues such as nuclear power stations. Now, I have no truck with some of these people, but mostly they are just kids who feel strongly about aspects of life. They are certainly not terrorists. And another thing. The Bill will give all public authorities - councils, the NHS and loads of others - the power to give the police confidential information about anyone being investigated for a crime - or even a suspected crime. This is George Orwell's 1984, running 17 years late. It is the makings of a police state. Even the judges are appalled. David Blunkett says he is taking these powers "reluctantly". Sphericals. .......
Nov 16

NFU insists scrapie slaughtering unnecessary
Ananova

The National Farmers' Union says Britain need not adopt tough measures to control scrapie in sheep being proposed by France. Scientists across the Channel are proposing that whole flocks should be slaughtered if just some of the animals are found to have the brain disease. Scrapie is feared to be linked to BSE in cattle and vCJD in humans.
(warmwell note: by whom? what nonsense this is. There is no independent research funded by our government, only the research that persists in assuming such a link. For journalists, and the NFU apparently, this "link" has now become the received wisdom. There is a great deal more to be said on this issue. See the BSE/CJD page ) But there is no evidence that the Draconian measures are needed here, Mr Gill, president of the National Farmers' Union, says. "We have done far more research then the French. There is a lot of detailed research gone into the random selections of sheep brains," he said. A major research project in which cow rather than sheep brains were apparently accidentally used had been a "cock-up", but that was irrelevant because even if they had been from sheep they were a decade old, he says.

"What is more important is the sheep brains that have been taken contemporaneously and every one has proved negative for BSE," he added. Even the French are only slaughtering flocks that are heavily infected and geno-typing will eradicate the disease in Britain, he says. Story filed: 08:46 Friday 16th November 2001
Nov 16

Farm export subsidies to be cut
Farmer's Weekly

By Philip Clarke, Europe editor
EXPORT subsidies on agricultural goods are to be reduced - though not necessarily eliminated - under a new round of world trade talks. Known as the Doha Development Round, the multi-national negotiations are scheduled to last three years. Trade ministers from 142 countries launched the new trade on Wednesday (14 November), following six days of talks in Doha, capital of Qatar. As expected, agricultural export subsidies proved one of the main sticking points as delegates tried to find an acceptable form of words.
Most countries want a commitment to "reductions of, with a view to phasing out, all forms of export subsidies". France and Ireland in particular said the words implied that eliminating export subsidies is the pre-determined outcome of the negotiations. The European Union will need export subsidies to bridge the gap between EU prices and world prices, even after the Agenda 2000 reforms. As a compromise, a final text from the World Trade Organisation's meeting included the words "without prejudging the outcome of the negotiations".
This effectively means the main protagonists - the EU, USA and the Cairns Group of south Pacific countries - can continue haggling for years to come.
In return for a "concession" on export subsidies, the EU is pressing its demand for "non-trade" issues to be considered in future trade talks. This will make it easier to reward farmers for environmental services, bolster food safety and protect specialist products from cheap imitations. The agreement also calls for "substantial improvements in market access" and "substantial reductions in trade-distorting domestic supports". EU farm commissioner Franz Fischler described the launch of the new trade round as "a slap in the face for isolationism". The free world prefers trade to terrorism, he said. Depending on the extent to which export subsidies have to be cut, the EU may have to reduce support prices further and increase direct payments. This won't start to bite for at least three years, although the EU must adjust to take in low-cost producers from central and eastern European countries. As well as agriculture, the Doha round will also focus on liberalising trade in the service sector and reducing industrial tariffs. US president George Bush said the deal had "the potential to revitalise the global economy".
posted Nov 16

Northumberland not infected - official
Farmers' Weekly

NORTHUMBERLAND has its foot-and-mouth infected-area status removed, freeing up 828 farms which were under restrictions. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs lifted the North Pennines infected area around Hexham on Thursday (15 November). This move followed extensive blood sampling in the Whitley Chapel area of Northumberland - all of which proved negative. Two smaller infected areas remain in Skipton and Cumbria, as well as the Penrith restricted infected area.
posted Nov 16

ECHR halts paedophile ring trail
The Scotsman

Michelle Nichols and John McEachran
A FATHER of two accused of being a member of the world 's biggest internet paedophile ring walked free from a Scottish court yesterday after a sheriff ruled his human rights were infringed because the man who had unplugged his computer during a police search was not named on the warrant. Comment IT is becoming increasingly clear that Scottish judges, especially in the lower courts, are being trapped beyond their competence because of the precise way ECHR has been re-inserted into Scottish law with the Scotland Act of 1999. Sheriff Peter Gillam said the police raid on Andrew Aspinall 's home in Livingston, West Lothian, was illegal and a breach of the European Convention on Human Rights. As a result, he refused to allow the computer or discs to be entered in evidence before the jury at Linlithgow Sheriff Court. The computer will now be handed back to Mr Aspinall, although detectives believe it may contain thousands of images of child pornography. A senior police officer last night said the public would be baffled by the latest controversial ECHR ruling. (warmwell note: Rather than being baffled it is possible that they will feel reassured by another instance of a judge upholding the law in order to protect ordinary people even at th expense of losing one conviction. A man who may be a criminal is allowed to walk free, but police carried out anonymous raids on private property - as they will have legal right to do under the new rules of the Animal Health amendment bill if it is passed. The fault here was surely not with the judge (sheriff) nor with the European Convention on Human Rights but with the reluctance of officials to be named. This case will, no doubt, be pointed at to help justify New Labour's and Mr Blunkett's wish to undermine both the judiciary and the principles behind the ECHR .)

Internment a 'threat to pillar of freedom'
Telegraph

By Philip Johnston, Home Affairs Editor, and Sarah Womack
(Filed: 16/11/2001) DAVID BLUNKETT'S plans to detain suspected terrorists without trial have been denounced as potentially dangerous by the Conservatives and "a threat to a pillar of our freedoms" by one of the country's most venerable judicial figures. Lord Donaldson, a former Master of the Rolls, said such detentions were an attack on the 14th century concept of habeas corpus. "This has no precedent," he said on BBC radio. "Habeas corpus goes back centuries. This is not an airy-fairy issue, this is a fundamental right without which we are entirely at the mercy of ministers." Lord Donaldson was referring to the Home Secretary's dismissal of "airy-fairy" liberals who are opposed to his anti-terrorism package. Writing in The Telegraph today, Oliver Letwin, shadow home secretary, says the proposed internment of foreign nationals who pose a risk to national security could make Britain a target for reprisals or hostage-taking. ...............Mr Letwin also signals that the Tories will challenge the proposed law on incitement to religious hatred when the new anti-terrorism Bill goes to the Commons next week. Lord Donaldson's attack indicates that Mr Blunkett's legislation may face its toughest challenge from peers. He said Mr Blunkett wanted there to be no referee other than the Home Office. "There can be an appeal to a special tribunal, but the tribunal has no power to order the Home Secretary to take any particular action, and if it does do so it has no power to enforce it," he said.
Nov 16

Cash threat to BSE test research
Farmers' Weekly

By Donald MacPhail
RESEARCH which could lead to a BSE test for live cattle is in jeopardy unless the government provides more funding by the end of the year.
Alan Ebringer, professor of immunology at King's College, London, has developed a test for BSE which has identified infected samples with 100% accuracy. In the pilot study, material from infected cattle was found to have higher levels of antibodies to the bacterium acinetobactor calcoaceticus. If wider trials support this, an on-farm BSE test could be developed. "By testing 1cc of blood, we could determine whether or not an animal has BSE before it goes to slaughter, " said Prof Ebringer. Such a test could prevent cattle with BSE entering the food chain, although further research is required to discover whether it could detect sub-clinical cases.
But the project could come to an abrupt halt on 31 December when funding provided in the 1990s by the then Ministry of Agriculture runs out. And a presentation Prof Ebringer was due to make to influential government BSE advisors SEAC in November has been put back until February. Supporters of Prof Ebringer's believe scientists are trying to halt his work because it is at odds with the mainstream theory that BSE is caused by rogue prions. Prof Ebringer believes that BSE, vCJD and other diseases, including multiple sclerosis, are caused by an immune reaction. This is set off by exposure to acinetobactor, which "mimics" brain cells. Antibodies which attack the bacteria also attack brain tissue, he believes. Prof Ebringer says prions are consequence of the autoimmune conditions triggered by acinetobactor, rather than the cause of BSE. In the House of Commons on Thursday (15 November), Labour MP Tam Dalyell will ask Defra secretary Margaret Beckett if she plans to renew funding. "This should be given a proper hearing," Mr Dalyell told FWi. "My instinct is that Prof Ebringer may be right and that SEAC could be wrong." SEAC chairman Peter Smith stressed that Defra made all funding decisions and denied that there were any moves to sideline Prof Ebringer. "The fact that SEAC has invited Prof Ebringer to present his research indicates that we give credence to his work," he said. A Defra spokesman said if proposals were approved by peer review, the department could consider funding in the New Year.
Nov 15

David Blunkett holds liberty and the judges in contempt
Guardian

The home secretary will soon decide who is to be detained without trial
Hugo Young
In Britain, David Blunkett says, politicians not judges are the true defenders of liberty. This is a profound philosophical position. "It was not the lawyers and judges who secured democracy and freedom for our people," Blunkett told the Labour party conference. As home secretary and a non-lawyer, he plainly believes he has a mission to reiterate the doctrine of ministerial supremacy. Last week, his message became more absolutist. "The law," he insisted, "will be made by those who are held to account for both making it and changing it." On Sunday, his obvious contempt for the legal profession reached towards the law itself with an unscripted attack, straight from the heart, on "airy-fairy civil liberties" and the people who defend them.
Nov 15

Now Haskins leaves Northern Foods
Farmers Weekly

LORD HASKINS, the government's rural recovery coordinator, has announced that he is retiring as chairman of Northern Foods. This announcement follows news that the Labour peer was stepping down as chairman of Express Dairies. Lord Haskins said that it had long been his intention to step down from his two public company chairmanships before he reached his 65th birthday. He told the Daily Mail that after a 40-year career he had "nothing lined up" for the future. The Times reports that Lord Haskins, a close friend of Tony Blair, had been criticised by Northern shareholders for spending too much time away. The new chairman at Northern Foods will be former Nestli UK boss Peter Blackburn. Express Dairies has named Sir David Naish, who was president of the National Farmers' Union from 1991-98, as Lord Haskins' replacement. Northern Foods shares fell 6p to 149p after Lord Haskins unveiled a drop in pretax profits from £52.2 million to £38.4m in the six months to September.
posted Nov 15

French threat to world trade talks
Farmers Weekly

FRANCE has threatened to walk out of World Trade Organisation talks unless the EU wins a deal on agricultural subsidies. French delegates are resisting calls from the rest of the world for the EU to phase out its farm subsidy system, reports The Guardian. "It's a sort of deal-breaker point," said French trade minister Francois Huwart. The USA, the Cairns Group and poor countries have left the EU isolated with demands for an end to subsidies. A WTO spokesman told the newspaper that the talks in Doha, Qatar, could end without agreement.
posted Nov 15

Ministers face fines over MAFF dispute
Farmers Weekly

By John Burns, south-west of England correspondent
STUBBORN ministers may pay multi-million pound fines to the EU, rather than pledge less to settle a dispute with ex-Ministry of Agriculture staff, say union leaders. Brussels could impose penalties on the UK because the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has failed to meet support payment deadlines. Delays have occurred because of industrial action - including strikes and working to contract - organised by the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS). Ex-MAFF staff began action in the summer after discovering that Department for the Environment staff transferred to Defra enjoyed better pay and conditions.
At a recent meeting in Exeter, Devon, PCS official Sheila Pickman told staff that only in recent days had Defra gone to the Treasury for more money. PCS Exeter branch secretary David Climie said the action might delay support payments to farmers, but that these would not be affected by fines.
Even with massive overtime, it was unlikely that some deadlines could now be met, warned Mr Climie. Mr Climie said that the EU might impose penalties of millions of pounds if deadlines were missed - and the longer the delay the bigger the fine. Ironically, these fines could exceed the total sum required bring ex-MAFF staff salaries up to the same levels as their colleagues in Defra. PCS is also mounting a legal challenge on Defra 's failure to pay equal rates for equal work. As part of a regional rota of industrial action, Exeter staff are due to strike on Thursday and Friday (15-16 November) if the dispute is not resolved.
posted Nov 15

Bayer's profits hurt by drug withdrawal
BBC

Lipobay is mainly responsible for Bayer's troubles. Lipobay was withdrawn in August over fears that it may have caused the deaths of more than 50 people. ...... The fall in profits is largely because of the company's withdrawal of anti-cholesterol drug Baycol/Lipobay. ......... Bayer, Europe's second-largest chemicals group, put the cost of the Lipobay withdrawal and problems in producing the haemophilia treatment Kogenate at 1.4bn euros ($1.2bn). This was more than previously announced. ........
It has been a difficult year so far for Bayer, after the Lipobay problem resulted in falling profits, takeover rumours, the filing of 160 lawsuits, a suspension of a listing on the New York Stock Exchange and the sacking of over 4000 workers.
In the fourth quarter, Bayer is expected to receive a short-term boost from sales of Ciprobay, which is used to treat anthrax. The drug has been in hot demand in the US, following the anthrax attacks.
The company refused to comment on reports that it was close to signing a marketing deal in the US with GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) for its new erectile dysfunction drug Vardenafil. ..... Bayer needs a strong US partner to market and sell Vardenafil in competition with better-known rivals such as Viagra. It hopes the new treatment will fill part of the gap left by the withdrawal of Lipobay. British drug giant GSK has been tipped as the ideal partner since it has been looking to make use of its huge US sales operation after failing to bring several products in development to market. GSK (GlaxoSmithKline) also refused to comment on a possible deal with Bayer, which was reported by the UK's Financial Times without citing sources. The two companies have already worked together in marketing Lipobay.
Nov 15

Government in denial' of its foot and mouth errors
Western Morning News

.... Tony Banks, the former Sport Minister, underlined backbench unease about the sweeping new powers when he abstained from the vote on the Bill's second reading on Monday. He also added his voice to calls for a full public inquiry into the foot and mouth (FMD) crisis. Mr Banks, a well-known animal rights campaigner, said it was not right to give extended culling powers to DEFRA officials and other "so-called experts". He added: "The idea that Ministers can order slaughter whether or not animals have been exposed to foot and mouth disease is one that I find wholly unacceptable." Despite the Bill passing its second reading with a large majority, significant concerns were raised about it on all sides of the House of Commons and it is expected to face a tougher time both in committee and in the House of Lords.
Peter Ainsworth, the Tory spokesman on environment, food and rural affairs, said it was "inappropriate" to bring in such measures before a full inquiry into the FMD outbreak had been held. Mr Ainsworth said: "There are important lessons to be learned, but the Bill contains no evidence to show that the Government have learned from their mistakes. Indeed, it suggests they are strongly in denial of their role in the whole sad affair. "Whenever anything goes wrong it is the Government's natural and cowardly instinct to look for someone else to blame. However I have rarely witnessed anything as low or contemptible as their attempt to blame foot and mouth on the farming community." (warmwell note: he was actually more interesting than that. read more here) Colin Breed, the Lib-Dem's agriculture spokesman, condemned the Government's failure to consult any of the main farming groups, or to await the outcome of its own inquiries into the handling of the epidemic. He described the Government's attitude towards farmers as "insulting", adding: "This bill fails on all accounts. This kind of shoddy legislation again highlights the need for a public inquiry into the FMD crisis and the need for a Government to take rural affairs seriously." The Animal Health Minister, Elliot Morley, defended the powers in the Bill, which he said were essential contingency options for tackling any future outbreak. Mr Morley said: "Ideally, nobody wants animals ever again to be culled here on the scale that has been necessary in this outbreak. That is all the more reason why, if we are to have culling, it must be done speedily and effectively. "The measures in the Bill mean that, by taking quicker and more effective action, fewer animals will be effective." (sic - but probably not Mr Morley's fault, this time) Angela Browning, Tory MP for Tiverton and Honiton, said that Government bureaucracy and inadequate resources were the main culprit for many of the delays during the crisis. She said three farms in her constituency were identified for the contiguous cull 19 days after neighbouring outbreaks, by which time it was clear they were not infected.
Nov 14

Scientists start testing cattle for BSE
ananova

BSE testing of thousands of cattle begins today as part of a major Government programme. Tthe newly independent LGC, formerly the Laboratory of the Government Chemist, won a competitive tendering exercise to test all cattle born between August 1, 1996, and July 31, 1997, which are slaughtered under the Over Thirty Months Scheme (OTMS). A proportion of these animals are already being tested in government laboratories, but this contract means all cattle in this category will be tested. LGC will test a sample of 50,000 OTMS animals in line with European Union requirements.
Government laboratories are also testing cattle which die on farms or in transit, or cattle which are subject to emergency slaughter through injury or sickness, casualty animals.
Animal Health Minister Elliot Morley said: "These tests will give us a more accurate picture of the level of BSE infectivity in the UK herd and will add to results from our existing already much expanded testing programme. "Cattle born in the year after August 1, 1996, are particularly significant as this is the date when our strengthened feed controls were considered to be fully effective." BSE testing in the UK has been delayed as a result of the foot and mouth disease outbreak.
(warmwell note:"won a competitive tendering exercise", "contract", "newly independent"..not for the first time, we notice how much money and influence is involved in "Animal Health" and research into TSEs, not to mention the wealth pouring into the pockets of vets, slaughter teams, hauliers and others as a result of the animal death policies of the past eight months)
Nov 14

Politicians should leave justice to judges and juries
The Times

BY ROY AMLOT QC
David Blunkett's recent speech to Civitas, the Institute for the Study of Civil Society, was not the biggest story of the week but it has, according to reports in this newspaper, triggered a row at the top of Government. In his address, the Home Secretary was critical of the way in which judicial review had been progressively extended in scope as a means of challenging the will of ministers. And, not for the first time since September 11, Mr Blunkett made vocal his desire to see judges more willing to toe the line on key areas of Government home and security policy. Politicians must be as vocal as they like when it comes to issues of public policy. The ability to direct and set the tone for debates on issues of widespread interest is at the heart of political leadership. But the fact that the Home Secretary now wants to curb judges' power is disturbing. The strongest argument in favour of judicial review as a check on the unfettered power of the political executive is the sound of politicians complaining about it. To coin a phrase, if it ain't hurting, it ain't working. Judicial review promotes good governance at all levels. This is especially important when we remember how heav-ily governed we are: parish and town councils; district and borough councils; county and unitary authorities; regional government in its many forms; central government and a staggering panoply of all-powerful quangos and statutory bodies. .............
The Home Secretary also challenged lawyers to decide whether we were a profession or a trade, seeming to imply that the vigorous pursuit of a client's cause may be an abasement of professional standards. To this I say that we are very clearly a profession, independent but regulated in the public interest, with a higher and primary duty to justice and the courts. We are not the lapdogs of the executive, happy to back off when the political going gets tough.
But in the long run, such ministerial sounding-off must not be allowed to become a smokescreen for the real issue that lies at the heart of the recent recommendations of the Auld report - thought to be favoured by ministers- namely, the abolition of the right to trial by jury in the majority of criminal cases. For the health of our demo-cracy, it is essential that juries should be retained for criminal trials, the majority of which bring consequences that are likely to be serious for the defendant and the alleged victim alike. In dangerous times, our basic freedoms need protection more than ever before. I am not sure that the public would agree that it is politicians, not independent judges or lay jurors, who should have the whip hand in our justice system. Judges protect us all against the might of the State. What's more, people trust juries. It is time for ministers to trust them both.
posted Nov 14

Millions 'lost' in EU Budget, say auditors
Asia.com

Sources say that 5% of spending is not accounted for; auditors also warn of poor control over farm, structural funds BRUSSELS - The European Union (EU) is unable to account for millions of euros it spent last year and still has insufficient control over its huge farm and structural funds, the European Court of Auditors said on Monday. In its 600-page annual report on the 90 billion euro (S$146 billion) Budget, the court did not give a specific figure of money lost but EU sources reckon some 5 per cent of the Budget could not be accounted for fully.
Financial control is a key goal for the European Commission (EC) under Mr Romano Prodi. He has sought to rebuild its image after the former administration resigned in 1999 amid a fraud and mismanagement scandal.
The report noted some improvements but in agriculture, which accounts for half of EU spending, the court said: 'The audits did not reveal any improvement in the situation noted by the Court concerning substantive errors.'
There were no specific allegations of 'phantom' olive trees or cows, as there had been in the past, but it highlighted weak controls at the national level over livestock numbers and a huge overpayment in Spanish subsidies for flax-growing. Spain's flax scandal has been rumbling on for years and concerns allegations that money was paid to farmers for crops that were often burned, a practice known as 'premium hunting'. Senior officials at the agriculture ministry in Madrid resigned in 1999 after they were linked to companies filing false claims for aid and the row became highly political. .......... Last week, another report alleged that EU governments could be using financial products called swaps to make their Budget deficits seem lower than they are.--Reuters
Nov 14

Lamb export decision 'a milestone'
icWales

By Catrin Williams, The Western Mail
EUROPE'S decision to allow lamb exports from counties that have never had foot-and-mouth disease has been hailed industry-wide as a huge milestone for Wales. The European Commission confirmed the European Standing Veterinary Committee's recommendation last week. Sheep exports from most of North Wales, Ceredigion, Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire were expected to re-start by Thursday after eight months' disruption. But it has now emerged Ceredigion, Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire were missed off the list, an oversight which could stall the movement for farmers in these three counties until at least the end of this month. Two weeks ago, the EC announced the partial lifting of the export ban on beef and pork. Welsh beef exports are worth £10m but lamb exports from Wales are worth 10 times that figure.......
Nov 13

Yesterday in Parliament :
Bungling on foot and mouth was the worst, says Hague
Telegraph

Michael Kallenbach
THE Government's handling of the foot and mouth crisis was the worst case of bureaucratic bungling that William Hague had come across, he told MPs last night. The former Conservative leader, making his first speech as a backbencher for nearly nine years, was speaking during the second reading debate of the Animal Health Bill.
He asked: "Is it any wonder that the agricultural community are hostile to greater powers for Government departments of which their daily experience is so deeply disappointing?" Mr Hague, the MP for Richmond, North Yorkshire, repeated his call for a public inquiry into the crisis and for real "bio-security" measures to combat importation of infected meat.
......... But the stoicism of local farmers had been tested to the limit by bungling by Government officials. ...... He told of movement licences, delayed for weeks, "often lost, often duplicated . . . frequently full of errors".
The debate was opened by Margaret Beckett, the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary, who said she was convinced that it was important to introduce tough new powers to tackle any further cases of foot and mouth. "We are trying to get ahead of circumstances in which we might find ourselves," she said. The Bill provides powers to enter farms for culling, vaccination or testing on a precautionary basis to prevent the spread of foot and mouth. It allows for a possible vaccination programme and, controversially, reduces the automatic compensation for farmers to three quarters of a slaughtered animal's market value, with the other 25 per cent dependent on farmers' compliance with disease control measures. (warmwell note: this, alas, is not all that it allows for as anyone who looks at the small print will see. Mrs Beckett cannot, surely, be unaware of this.) The Government also wants to speed the eradication of scrapie from the national sheep flock. Mrs Beckett said the new measure would give ministers powers to speed the process of developing a disease-resistant flock by excluding susceptible breeds from breeding programmes and culling or castrating others. Peter Ainsworth, the Tory rural affairs spokesman, criticised the Bill as "badly targeted, badly drafted and badly motivated". He welcomed the proposals on scrapie but said they would require close scrutiny to ensure protection of certain rare breeds. (warmwell note: since we have seen that "scrapie resistant" is not the same as "BSE resistant" we would urgently like to see more opposition questions about the basis for these proposals) He said the Bill was evidence that the Government had not learnt any lessons from its handling of the foot and mouth crisis. "The natural and cowardly instinct of this Government, whenever anything goes wrong, is to look around to blame somebody else, but I have rarely seen anything as low or contemptible as the Government's attempt to blame foot and mouth on the farming community." Like Mr Hague, Mr Ainsworth criticised the Government for refusing to hold a public inquiry into foot and mouth. Mark Todd (Lab, Derbyshire South) said MPs would need evidence of improvements in the way Maff, the predecessor to Defra, handled outbreaks, before providing tough new powers.
Malcolm Bruce, the Lib Dem agriculture spokesman, said the new legislation risked the possibility of further alienating farmers.
"It beggars belief that we cannot manage the way through the rest of this outbreak without taking draconian powers. We believe that these are very substantial powers, taken in a hurry, which really behoves ministers to justify." David Borrow (Lab, Ribble Valley) said that rushing legislation through without much consultation risked "fanning the flames of opposition within the rural community".
Nov 13

Angry MPs demand Blunkett answers
Telegraph: Yesterday in Parliament

Is David Blunkett the biggest threat to our legal system?
THE Government came under fire in the Commons yesterday for announcing details of its emergency powers on terrorism to the media rather than MPs.
Labour and Tory MPs urged Michael Martin, the Speaker, to intervene and get David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, to come to the Commons to answer questions.
The Government laid its order to ignore Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights before Parliament yesterday, and it comes into force today. However, it must be approved by MPs within 40 days.
The order clears the way for the introduction of a new power to detain suspects. But after several interventions and requests, Mr Martin refused to get involved and told MPs: "I have to say, there are no rules.........." (warmwell note: that is rather what we fear..)

Control of foot and mouth Letter in the Times

From Mr John Capstick
Sir, The fundamental reason for the reluctance of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to embrace vaccination as a method of controlling foot-and-mouth disease comes near the end of Magnus Linklater's article (Times 2, November 6). The argument about the effect of vaccination on livestock exports betrays the dead hand of the National Farmers' Union.
Such exports are a small part of UK agricultural production. Their significance is likely to decline further in favour of meat exports if increased controls on livestock movements are a result of the present outbreak. Meat exports have already restarted from non-infected parts of the UK.
Moreover, the value of livestock exports pales into insignificance before the billions of pounds of damage caused to tourism by the current methods of FMD control.
Yours faithfully, JOHN CAPSTICK, Townhead, Johnby, Penrith, Cumbria CA11 0UU. November 6.
(warmwell note: there is also a letter from Mr Elliot MORLEY on the same page. Since it merely repeats the misinformation of past weeks - such as "A negative laboratory result does not necessarily mean that contiguous premises did not have animals which were incubating the disease." we do not consider it worth quoting here.)
Nov 13

DALE'S BLUE BOX IS LIFTED
Hexham Courant

THE BLUE BOX animal movement restrictions imposed in the Allendale area in August were due to be lifted last night. After nearly seven weeks with no new cases of foot-and-mouth disease in the district, Defra was expected to announced yesterday afternoon the restrictions were being lifted at midnight. This will mean the 31 disinfectant spray stations across the district will be stood down immediately, and will be removed over the next couple of days. The scrapping of the blue box follows the lifting of restrictions on farms in the Allendale, Haydon Bridge and Hunstansworth areas earlier this week. However, a 10km radius D-zone will remain around Whitley Chapel in Hexhamshire, where formal clinical results from blood samples are still awaited. The news will be welcomed across the district, but the clamour for a full public inquiry into the epidemic is gaining further impetus.
Nov 13

Hague and Banks savage ministers over foot-and-mouth
Ananova

Sweeping new powers for ministers to combat foot-and-mouth disease were given a mauling on all sides of the Commons.
Former sports minister Tony Banks led Labour backbench unrest over the Animal Health Bill, warning he would abstain on its second reading. Calling for an independent inquiry into causes of the outbreak, Mr Banks said: "We are being asked to support a Bill that gives far greater powers to ministers before we fully understand the causes of the outbreak itself. "It gives so extensive a range of powers to DEFRA officials that it terrifies me." Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary Margaret Beckett admitted herself to, at first, being "unenthusiastic" about the need to take such strong powers, but said she had become convinced they were necessary. "We are trying to get ahead of circumstances in which we might find ourselves," Mrs Beckett insisted. The Bill provides wider powers to enter farms for culling, vaccination or testing on a precautionary basis to prevent the spread of foot-and-mouth. It also allows for a possible vaccination programme and cuts the automatic compensation to 75% of a slaughtered animal's market value - with the other 25% dependent on farmers' compliance with disease control measures.
Tory former leader William Hague also attacked the Government's handling of the foot-and-mouth crisis, in his first backbench Commons contribution for almost nine years.
Mr Hague, accused ministers of "bureaucratic bungling" and said that the Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs had treated the mouth outbreak like an "inconvenient news story" and called for a public inquiry. Story filed: 20:47 Monday 12th November 2001
Nov 12

Go-ahead granted for OP dip claims
Farmers' Weekly

By Isabel Davies
FARMERS who believe they were poisoned by organophosphate sheep dips have been given the go-ahead to continue with claims for damages. At a hearing in the High Court on Friday (9 November) a judge refused to "strike out" claims despite an application by agrochemical companies. Mr Justice Morland issued his judgement in a preliminary hearing in the multi-party action brought by farmers and farm workers poisoned by OPs. Most claims brought against the agrochemical firms survived a review after a significant challenge to the validity of the cases by the defendants. Lis Charles of solicitors Gabb & Co, lead solicitor for the claimants, said she was, on balance, pleased with the judgement. "Despite everything the defendants had to say to Mr Justice Morland we are pleased that the majority of the cases have survived," she said. "We are now applying ourselves to dealing with those observations that the Judge has made with a view to bringing the cases to full trial as is possible." The hearing was a result of applications made by the agrochemical companies in a process which has taken over a year and a half. Ms Charles said defendants should think hard about the suffering and anxiety to which they have subjected claimants, many of whom are unwell. "These cases will go forward as individual cases but with co-operation among the claimants on issues of common interest," she added. See also 8th December 2000 'Further OP action will fail' , 17 October 2000 Farmers told to abandon OP claim and the BSE/CJD page on warmwell

Buy local, Charles tells stores
Farmers' Weekly

By Isabel Davies
THE Prince of Wales has called on supermarkets to buy more local food, and urged the UK to retain its food security during difficult times. Prince Charles said: "To sacrifice long-term security through short-term convenience would be utter madness and can hardly be sustainable." The prince's comments came at the launch of a local food guide produced by the Institute of Grocery Distribution and Business in the Community. The report - Local Sourcing- Growing Rural Business - aims to show how local suppliers can work in partnership with others in the food chain. Launched in London on Monday (12 November), it includes case studies and contains useful advice and contacts for both suppliers and retailers. Prince Charles said as the food chain had extended over the past 50 years, farmers had had the raw end of the deal. Producers in countries such as France received a bigger percentage of the end retail price because they were better organised, he said. "There must be some lessons here for our farmers, " he said. "If we can encourage more local sourcing, I am sure we can improve the viability of our farmers." Business in the Community chairman Peter Davis said the guide was an important and timely contribution to the debate about the rural economy. Sir Peter, who is also chief executive of Sainsbury's, said it was in everyone's interests to help revive the UK's rural areas. More than 10,000 copies of the report, sponsored by Sainsbury's, HSBC Bank and the National Farmers' union, will be distributed.
(warmwell note: Prince Charles shows more understanding of and sympathy for rural issues than anyone in the government and we are, once again, extremely grateful to him.)
Nov 12

Japanese stage 'mad cow' memorial service
Ananova

A memorial service for cows has been held in Japan. Forty-seven cows were slaughtered in Chiba province as a precautionary measure against the spread of BSE. A memorial stone has been erected and a remembrance service has taken place. The event, organised by the local government, was attended by government officials, city councilors and farmers. Prayers were offered to the departed animals and 47 chrysanthemums were laid in their honour. So far BSE in Japan has been limited to a few isolated cases and the first outbreaks in the country's history have been taken very seriously. Story filed: 12:38 Monday 12th November 2001
(warmwell note: Prayers too will be said at the start of the day's business in the Commons when the bill to extend government powers to kill animals gets its 2nd reading. Unlike the show of reverence there, this respect for the slaughtered cows has raised the Japanese in our estimation. They understand, as our nation does not, that it is the animals who have had to make the ultimate sacrifice to our - very fallible - notions of human safety. Here, under the disgracefully termed "welfare" scheme, calves are every day collected from farms like rubbish, killed and disposed of and only the cows are heard to bellow in protest. Even to think about this is thought ludicrously sentimental while to care - vociferously - about the farmers whose lives have been destroyed by the government's arrogant policies is, apparently, "troublemaking".)
Nov 12

How foot and mouth is fuelled by computers and cluelessness
Telegraph

By Adam Nicolson
......... It turns out that the ministry that deals with farming - ex-Maff, now Defra (but if you ring them up, it's the same people, same telephone numbers, same mindset, even one of the same ministers) - has just about the same grasp of the geography of Great Britain as that poor Dutchman had of the Venezuelan interior. The epidemiologist Professor Roy Anderson, of Imperial College London, told the Commons Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee last week that he had asked Maff-Defra recently for the database of farm locations by which the spread of foot and mouth disease had been monitored. Immensely helpful, they sent him the data, but the co-ordinates they provided left him perplexed. Half the farms he tried to look up, as Prof Anderson told the committee, "were out in the North Sea".
This had the MPs in stitches; there were hoots of laughter at the idiocy of computers and/or civil servants, or both. But on the ground, it has become more than a joke. My small farm (90 acres, 60 ewes, six beef suckler cows) in the Sussex Weald is far too small not to make a loss in the modern marketplace, so with four of my neighbours, we have clubbed together in a kind of co-operative, the Wealden Farmers Network. We have our own cutting room, where the animals are butchered and packed up into sellable joints (and delicious sausages, by the way, all to be had, if you are interested, from joamos2000@hotmail.com).
Foot and mouth hasn't been anywhere near East Sussex, but we, like the rest of the country, continue to labour under the most pedantic licensing scheme any computer or bureaucrat could have devised. All movements of animals between one holding and another still need to be licensed and supervised by a vet. It's a bore for the network's managers, but what happened last week was an example of the deepest absurdity that a bureaucratic system can sink to.
Some lambs in a field by the church at Netherfield needed to be moved to fresh grazing 300 yards away down the road. The new grazing was nominally in a different holding. They needed a licence. A licence was applied for at the trading standards office at Lewes. The trading standards officer refused to grant it. Why? Because the field next to the church in Netherfield was "in a dirty area".
"An infected area. The computer says it is."
"But there has been no foot and mouth in East Sussex."
"We can't go against the computer."
"So what can we do?"
"Talk to Defra about it."
We spoke to Defra. Nothing to do with them. We should speak to Adas, the privatised agricultural consultancy (motto: "Helping farmers to help themselves"). Adas said it was nothing to do with them. We should speak to the trading standards people. We spoke to them again. They said we should speak to Defra again, to their map division. The map division required all the papers to do with the case. We weren't allowed to send the details by fax. Everything had to go by post.
It is one of the more frustrating aspects of Maff-Defra culture that its relationship to modern technology is chaotic. Not only are they relying for their decision-making on computers that confuse East Sussex with Cumbria, and Oxfordshire with the Goodwin Sands; if their computers break down, which they have done at steady intervals, the officials are not allowed to turn to pen and paper until the machines have failed to work for more than eight hours. There are offices all over the country where officials sit for hours at a time twiddling their thumbs. Nor can any movement licences be faxed out. They all have to go in the post. And they can't be sent to the farmer who needs to move his animals. They can only go to the vet the farmer has nominated, yet another stiffening of the system. Individual vets have received 40 movement licences in a single post, which they cannot possibly deal with in a single day.
So what happened to the Netherfield lambs? Their grass ran out. In the two weeks the system took to work through its coils, two of the lambs died. The rest lost condition in a way no farmer likes to see in his stock. And, of course, there will be not an ounce of compensation.
It is laughable until you imagine the mistake over the Netherfield lambs being made in reverse. What if a Defra computer had happily issued a movement licence to animals from an infected farm because the computer said there was no disease within hundreds of miles? Has this happened? It now, on the face of it, seems likely. Is the ministry computer, with its jumbled maps, actually implicated in the huge geographical spread of the outbreak? It is already clear from Professor Ian Mercer's report to Devon County Council that policy "appeared to have been implemented by officials poring over maps in remote offices, so that only holdings were considered, not the topography, the disposition of animals upon it, nor the distances between them". The scale of the foot and mouth crisis is clearly evidence of a disastrous central failure to understand what was going on. The Government has shamefully refused to set up a proper public inquiry, with real powers to summon evidence and witnesses. Is this dreadful computer failure the secret which that decision is designed to conceal? All this is part of a larger question. The response to the foot and mouth outbreak has been characterised by a pervasive and fatal distance from the detailed realities on the ground. The lessons of the Northumberland report on the 1967 outbreak, which emphasised local, fast action, and burial, not burning, were ignored (or had been forgotten). It now seems certain that the disease was spread by the pyres that were meant to control it. The insistence this time on having suspected cases analysed centrally, and not acted on immediately and locally, introduced further catastrophic delays.
Sheer delay, it has been estimated, was responsible for the slaughter of about three million animals, which would otherwise have been unaffected. The new Draconian changes to the 1981 Animal Health Act, proposed by Elliot Morley last week, allowing the Government to kill any animal it wants to, whether the farmer wants it killed or not, is yet another symptom of a political and official culture governed by a contempt for any authority but its own. There is talk of making the present licensing scheme a permanent feature of farmers' lives, to be controlled by officials who know as much about the geography of rural Britain, and the lives of those who occupy it, as they do about the Matto Grosso or the hunting habits of the Nambikwara. It is a kind of official imperialism; but any empire governed like this would soon fall apart.
Nov 12

Call for more BSE testing
BBC

A senior government scientist has warned that too few cattle are being tested for BSE in Britain. Professor Roy Anderson believes the true extent of the disease may not be known in the UK, because so few animals are tested compared with other European countries. Almost one million animals are tested by both France and Germany every year. Prof Anderson, who has also advised ministers on foot-and-mouth disease, says that until this is matched here the accuracy of information on the presence of BSE in the UK cannot be guaranteed. Most of the 10,000 animals tested in Britain are those which have died - either due to accidents or disease - or those which are more than 30 months old. These animals might be more susceptible to the disease and that could distort the figures. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has issued a statement saying there is no obligation on farms to have animals tested and admitted that this meant they were slow to come forward. However, they say Britain is complying with EU legislation on testing.
A Europe-wide testing programme was introduced at the beginning of the year for cattle over 30 months. The average incubation period for BSE is four to six years, and the government says there have been no cases of BSE in younger cattle since strict feed controls were introduced in 1996.
Nov 12

Rural body urges farming shakeup
Guardian

Peter Hetherington,
Farmers struggling with the aftermath of foot and mouth disease have been dealt another blow, as the government's key rural advisers accused agriculture of wasting public money on a big scale and being out of touch with market realities. In a hard-hitting report, the countryside agency, whose chairman is Tony Blair's "rural champion", claims taxpayers are paying too heavy a price for supporting an inefficient industry. Calling for a shake up to end over-production and bring farming into line with consumer demands, it says agricultural subsidies should be diverted to support the wider rural economy and landscape. "Every year, over £3bn goes into production subsidies that most people, from farmers to consumers, agree are damaging and ineffective," it says. The report, to the policy commission on the future of farming and food - one of several inquiries commissioned during foot and mouth outbreak, says taxpayers are getting very poor value for huge farming subsidies. "Farming remains vital to the livelihood of many rural communities and the conservation of our cultural and environmental heritage, and yet little public money is devoted to securing these goals." It calculates that 40,000 agricultural jobs have been lost in the last two years, and in the areas worst hit by foot and mouth, such as the uplands of northern England, the end could be in sight for traditional livestock farming; 40% of farms sold recently went to non-agricultural uses. Unless corrective action is taken, it warns, the damage to the landscape caused by the switch to more intensive farming could be compounded by "further damaging change" as farmers attempt to stay competitive in world markets.
"For 50 years, agriculture has been treated differently from other businesses," the report says. "It has, until recently, had its own ministry, its own policies, protected markets, grant structures and price support. The public benefit from this special, and expensive approach, was perceived to be sufficiency of food, based on a home agricultural industry. This special treatment has resulted in an increasing isolation from market pressures and a disconnection from consumers." The report marks the opening shot in negotiations due next year for a review of the common agricultural policy, which determines most farming subsidies.
Although the rural affairs secretary, Margaret Beckett, has recently been critical of the farming industry, concern is growing that the government has yet to prepare an action plan for reforming the CAP. "The government should be preparing to take the lead in Europe by pressing for real change," one adviser said.
Nov 12

Farm shops are the future
Journal

The Government yesterday revealed their vision to overhaul British farming. In the wake of the foot and mouth crisis Food and Farming Minister Lord Whitty said selling produce locally could be the industry's salvation. But he warned farmers not to bank on subsidies in the future. Speaking at a conference at Oxford Brookes University, he described his hopes of the fishing and farming industries producing "safe nutritious food" and for animal welfare being placed at the heart of agriculture. He stressed at the conference, chaired by Channel 4 News presenter Jon Snow, that sustainable development was a key goal for the industry. He told farmers: "We have a vision for the country where the food, fishing and farming industries work together and with the Government, and are not dependent on output-related subsidies. "If anything good has come out of the foot and mouth crisis, it is that consumers have become more aware of the problems facing farmers. "They are showing an increased interest in buying local products."
Nov 11

It's true, people are like sheep
Sunday Times

Jonathan Miller
'Sheep are much more sophisticated than we thought, even similar to us in some abilities," says Dr Keith Kendrick, who has spent more than a decade trying to fathom their minds at the Babraham Institute in Cambridge. Using a complicated experiment involving flash cards, Kendrick has concluded that sheep can remember the faces of other sheep. So flocks that are apparently mindlessly ruminating might actually be harbouring deep thoughts about missing loved ones, Kendrick says.
We must be grateful to Kendrick for his pathfinding research. I have not noted particular brilliance among my flock. I will have to pay closer attention. But did you notice that in talking up sheep intellect, Kendrick is comparing them to humans?
With only minor editing of his research findings, it is possible to state with equal authority that humans are more stupid than we thought, even similar to sheep in some ways. Consider the behaviour of the cowed flocks miserably pushed through the public transport, hospital and education systems every day, offering only the occasional bleat of protest. The only difference is that the conditions would be illegal if the humans were sheep.
It would not surprise me that a human can remember 50 faces. It could also be true that as humans appear to ruminate, eating junk food and listening to the mindless drivel from the BBC, they are harbouring deep thoughts.
Speaking of sheep, Sir Brian Follett, the chairman of the Royal Society's "independent" inquiry into the foot and mouth debacle, appears already to have concluded that vaccination would not have worked to control the world's costliest and most poorly managed foot and mouth epidemic.
Some inquiry. Expert and highly qualified witnesses who do not agree have yet to be even asked for their evidence.
Rural death supremo Margaret Beckett has been sent a Ladybird book of animals to help her tell a sheep from a goat. Elliot Morley, her junior in charge of the actual butchery, was down in Devon the other day insisting there was no doubt that farmers resisting Defra's legally questionable contiguous cull helped to spread foot and mouth disease. That's not true, is it, Elliot. There's plenty of doubt. Why can't the Tories do more about these constant lies from Defra? If Morley can identify a single case in which contiguous cull resistance can be shown unequivocally to have been responsible for the spread of the disease, he should name it. But he can't, because the reason why the disease spread was government incompetence. .....
Nov 11

A pleasant revolt
Sunday Times

Paul Donovan
..... it is remarkable just how far farming programmes have advanced in becoming critical of, rather than an arm of, Whitehall policy. Sixty years ago, the BBC's output was subject to a Ministry of Agriculture body called the Broadcast Planning Sub-Committee, which later changed its name to the Central Agricultural Advisory Committee of the BBC, and survived until the 1990s. The Archers, as is well known, had a propagandist remit for its first 20 years. Nowadays, things could hardly be more different, with producers and presenters often markedly critical of officialdom. (warmwell note: Hmmmm) The latest example of that will be the recording at Pebble Mill on Saturday of a "foot-and-mouth inquiry" to go out on Radio 4 next week. A joint venture between Farming Today and You and Yours, it will feature a panel of three wise men (Professor Ian Mercer, who chaired Devon's recent inquiry, Professor Hugh Pennington and Brigadier Alex Birtwistle, who commanded the slaughter and disposal troops in Cumbria) and evidence from "key players" - vets, farmers, scientists and so forth. It promises to be an uncomfortable listen for the government, which has only itself to blame for turning down all requests for a public inquiry. Two things are needed to make the farming output even better than it is now. First, Radio 4 should move Farming Today back to its old slot of 6.10am, where it would perform a more valuable service than that segment of the Today programme. Second, it should produce an informative series about slaughter - abattoirs, stunning, halal, kosher and so on - and a basic A-Z of farming. The rise of vegetarianism and the animal-rights movement, and the unending controversy over meat, mean there is huge interest in all these topics. But there is great ignorance about them, too. Radio could do much to counter it.
Nov 11

Blackwell's heir leaves charity a golden fleece
Sunday Telegraph

The Oxford publishing dynasty yesterday mourned the son who gave £10 million to help rare sheep. Catherine Milner
AS members of one of Britain's most distinguished publishing dynasties gathered to celebrate the life of one of its most senior members yesterday, the conversation was dominated by just one subject: his extraordinary generosity to charity. Miles Blackwell, who owned a large share of the Oxford-based family business, has given away virtually all his £65.3 million fortune, including a £10 million donation to a charity devoted to rare breeds of farmyard animals. The Rare Breeds Survival Trust, which was established in 1973 to promote the survival of rare and minority breeds of all farm animals, will receive the gift next year.Richard Lutwyche, the rare breed trust's marketing director, said upon hearing the news: "Good heavens - that's wonderful!. We're desperate at the moment following foot and mouth and we need as much support as we can get." "He has been extraordinarily generous," said one of the new trustees in charge of his estate. "But details of his will will not be resolved until probate next spring." ...... In January this year Mr Blackwell, who died aged 56 in August, cashed in his share of the privately owned family business and retired to enjoy the countryside with his wife, Briony, who was devoted to her rare Scots Dumpy hens and Manx Loghtan sheep. He was "devastated" when she died suddenly, aged only 46, and died himself only three weeks later. The couple had no children.
Nov 11

Foot and mouth threat is far from over
This is Bradford

IT has been almost three months since the last confirmed outbreak of foot and mouth in the Skipton-Settle "box" - but the Government has warned that the epidemic is far from over. The risk of foot and mouth disease returning is still "very high" according to Government animal health minister Elliot Morley. Speaking in the Commons this week to the environment, food and rural affairs select committee, Mr Morley said the epidemic would not be classed as officially over until there had not been a case in the country for three months. The last recorded case nationally was in Appleby on September 30. The last recorded case in the Craven district was in Beamsley on August 2, although there was another in the Herald's publication area of Addingham, on August 16. Mr Morley said there was a strong possibility that the disease was lying dormant. "We still face the very real and serious prospect of another outbreak," he said, adding that there was a "pause" during the 1967 outbreaks after which a further series of cases lasted for three months. (warmwell note: such assurance...it makes one wonder to what inside information Mr Morley is privy, particularly after the killing of so many sheep in Cumbria in the last few days..)
posted Nov 11

Dale still caught in middle of FMD zones
The Darlington & Stockton Times

A FARMERS' representative has predicted short-term grief for Teesdale, following the lifting of foot and mouth infected area status from most of County Durham. Mr Phil Barber, Barnard Castle NFU branch secretary, spoke out after an announcement by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs that it was good news for farmers to the east of the River Tees in Middleton in Teesdale, but excluded that part of the county that was in the Allendale "blue box". Defra says that farmers in most of County Durham can now do business with Northumberland farmers who are not in the blue box area, with cattle, pigs and rams, subject to blood testing, able to move between the counties, under licence from local authorities. The news followed the results of tests involving samples taken from a cow slaughtered on Thursday of last week as a precautionary measure at a farm near Rookhope in Weardale. The tests proved negative. ........ But Mr Barber remained unconvinced that it would solve the more immediate problems encountered by dale farmers. "Although this is good news to a large extent, I can see it causing considerable difficulties in Teesdale in particular," he said. "The infected area boundary has been redrawn and runs directly through the dale and you can't send animals backwards and forwards across the boundary between infected and non-infected areas. "Teesdale seems to be having all the problems and to be stuck with restrictions without having had much infection, because of our proximity to Cumbria, although I am not trying to lay blame there." .........
posted Nov 11

FARMERS' LEADERS HAVE blasted the Government's handling of a new code of practice between supermarkets and their suppliers as "disastrous".
Country Reflections

NFU President Ben Gill has written to the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry about the fact that the industry was kept in the dark about the issuing of the code. He was angry at the DTI's decision to publish the code without any prior dialogue with the NFU and other organisations representing suppliers. In the letter to Patricia Hewitt, he stressed that the sudden announcement was particularly galling as the industry had been waiting seven months for it. Mr Gill wrote:"The handling of the code's publication could not have been worse. During the seven months in which your department had the code you consulted with the major supermarkets but virtually excluded ourselves and other suppliers' organisations. "Despite this delay, we had hoped in vain that you would prescribe a code that would protect farmers' and growers' trading relationships with the supermarkets. To then also publish it without any prior notification has added insult to injury. "We need to find a way ahead which is far more even handed. The retailers are here to stay. We need an agreed proper trading relationship and I fear that your decision will make progress much harder. "It is critical that every avenue is explored to find a fair set of trading relationships between buyers and sellers within the food chain. ................
(.See also)

SUPERMARKETS HAVE TRIED to quash claims that English apples are being downgraded in favour of foreign imports.

English Apples and Pears, the group which represents the vast majority of the country's 400 growers, accused supermarkets of not displaying native types prominently. Adrian Barlow, chief executive of EAP, told the Daily Telegraph:"Last year we had a light crop due to the very wet weather. But this year, the weather has helped the crop, producing an abundant harvest with the best skin appearance for 25 years. "It is therefore particularly frustrating for both growers and consumers that supermarkets are not devoting the necessary shelf space."
posted Nov 11

Walkers free to ramble as paths reopen
This is Clitheroe

MORE footpath networks in popular walking areas have been re-opened. DEFRA yesterday re-defined the foot and mouth infected areas in Lancashire allowing the County Council's Countryside Service to reduce its blanket closure area, which will see the opening up of several local footpath networks. This means the Lune Valley is now accessible, with the re-opened area extending from the Cumbria border, through the Clough access area, and southwards as far as the Dunsop Bridge to Slaidburn Road, permitting walking throughout the Forest of Bowland. And the Lancashire cycleway from Slaidburn to High Bentham now forms the western boundary of the newly defined closed area. In the south of the county, the new boundary follows the road from Whalley, south of Sabden, through Roughlee and Blacko to Foulridge, opening up part of the Forest of Pendle and areas to the north of Barrowford and Colne, with the county border giving access to Knarr's Hill and the footpath network extending into the area recently reopened in Yorkshire. And within the closed area, cycleways and linking footpaths in the western part of Gisburn Forest are now open. Lancashire County Council's cabinet member for public protection and the countryside, County Councillor Tim Ormrod, said: "There are many small businesses, pubs, cafes and village shops that have been suffering a loss of trade as a result of the foot and mouth restrictions. ........... "Visitors should also be aware that within the closed area, restrictions do still apply to footpaths and bridleways only. "Roads, villages and associated businesses are open as usual." The announcement follows the lifting of restrictions for livestock movement this week in the Paythorne, Horton-in-Craven, Newsholme, Gisburn, Bolton-by-Bowland, Clitheroe and Sawley area. But is expected to be well into the new year before all paths in the Ribble Valley areas affected by the foot and mouth crisis are re-opened.
posted Nov 11

Disease inquiry 'needs big hitter in the chair'
Newcastle Journal

A search has been launched to find an influential high-flyer to lead the independent public inquiry into the foot-and-mouth outbreak in Northumberland. A leading academic with a background in rural affairs, who also has the ability and clout to influence Government thinking, is seen as the most likely candidate to chair the inquiry into the devastating impact of the crisis on Northumberland. As Cumbria County Council cast doubts yesterday on the value of local foot-and-mouth inquiries - Northumberland chiefs said their five-day hearing will be held early next year. Coun Michael Davey, leader of Labour-controlled Northumberland County Council which has sanctioned the inquiry, said he would not be embarrassed if it resulted in further criticism of the Government's handling of the epidemic. Northumberland is to learn lessons from the foot-and-mouth public inquiry held by Devon County Council last month, the findings of which branded the handling of the outbreak as "lamentable". ...... It is hoped to appoint a chairman or chairwoman for the Northumberland inquiry by the end of the year and all political parties on the county council will be involved in the selection process. Yesterday Coun Davey said: "The chairman has to be completely independent and the bigger the name the more clout the person concerned will have. ........ "Our first duty is to the people of Northumberland and if the public inquiry results in a report which is critical of Defra and the Government, then so be it. ..... Cumbria County Council said yesterday it would be "premature and inappropriate" to hold a local public inquiry into foot-and-mouth. Council leader Coun Rex Toft said the only satisfactory form of inquiry would be a national one, organised and paid for by the Government with the power to call ministers, experts and officials in an open and independent forum. Cumbria suffered 44% of the national total of confirmed foot-and-mouth cases: 893 compared to 173 in Devon. Coun Toft said the Devon inquiry did not have the power to force key players to attend. "Unfortunately, that can potentially devalue their findings to a degree. "Any realistic inquiry in Cumbria would have to be much larger, considerably more costly and would be likely to go on for weeks." Berwick MP Alan Beith said: "Given the Government's failure to hold a public inquiry, the hearing in Northumberland will be an opportunity to get an independent assessment of the very real grievances which many people have."
posted Nov 10

Asian extrovert tunes in to the farming set
The Times

BY VALERIE ELLIOTT, COUNTRYSIDE EDITOR
AN EXTROVERT journalist who greets ministers with a kiss will be the first Asian presenter for the BBC's early morning radio show Farming Today. Sarah Mukherjee, 34, has gained a fan club among farmers for her reports on farming and the environment for the BBC's local radio network. Ministers at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs are connoisseurs of her exuberant style - though Ms Mukherjee admits that she has yet to find the courage to plant a peck on the cheek of Margaret Beckett, the Rural Affairs Secretary. Listeners may not be able to see the trendy presenter in her hallmark pink, red or purple, but her voice is set next month to be the 5.45am wake-up call for the 880,000 people who tune in. The daughter of an Indian doctor and an English nurse, she joins Miriam O'Reilly, a farmer's daughter, and Anna Hill, who has presented rural programmes on BBC Radio 4 for ten years. ...........
Nov 10

Flooding distress ignored'
WesternDaily Press

( warmwell note: time for the Minister to resign?) THOUSANDS of homes are at fresh risk of flooding this winter because the Government has not spent enough on defences, a shocking new report revealed yesterday. Last year saw 10,000 homes swamped around the country, including many along the river from Gloucester to Upton-upon-Severn, causing £1 billion damage and untold misery to those affected. And in previous years many other parts of the West have suffered, especially the Somerset Levels, as the impact of climate change and global warning is seen. Yesterday the respected Institute of Civil Engineers slammed the Govern-ment's handling of flood defences, calling for a big increase in spending. Its report said the human distress and health damage caused by flooding was ignored in favour of a strict economic approach to building defences. And it called for national standards for drainage systems, as flooding from sewage was much more distressing than from surface water and was a serious health risk. Both the Environment Agency and the Association of British Insurers dem-anded extra money, saying it would be a worthwhile investment in cutting clean-up costs, as well as avoiding suffering. Flood Minister Elliot Morley admitted more cash would have to be allocated. But Tory environment spokesman Jonathan Sayeed said Labour had "utterly failed" to sort out flood defences and thousands were in danger.
Nov 10

Rural firms sue over foot-and-mouth
Farmers Weekly

OWNERS of small rural businesses affected by foot-and-mouth have begun legal action against the government over its handling of the disease. The UK Rural Business Campaign has taken the first step towards action that could cost the government £500 million, reports the Financial Times. The organisation said it was forced into action by the government's refusal to hold a public inquiry and the way in which compensation was handled. "The human tragedy of it all is about to be exposed," said a spokesman. ( See press release)
Nov 9

Battle brews over Animal Health Bill
Farmers Weekly

By Isabel Davies
THE government looks set to face a battle over its proposed Animal Health Bill, due to have its second reading in Parliament on Monday (12 November). Critics believe the Bill breaches the Human Rights Act and would force farmers to slaughter livestock in the event of a re-run of foot-and-mouth.
And they are disputing claims by Countryside Minister Elliot Morley, who insisted to MPs this week that it complies with European Union law. Barrie Jones, legal director for the Farmers' Union of Wales, said the culling of animals without an appeals procedure could well breach EU law. "These proposals are flawed because they represent a blanket agreement to go in and kill any animals," he said. "We consider such all-embracing measures are incompatible with the human rights act."
Some legal experts have also voiced concern. Stephen Smith QC told the warmwell.com website that he would be worried if government officials slaughter animals without consent. "I find it very difficult to see how this proposed process can properly be said to be compatible with Convention rights," he said. A National Farmers' Union spokeswoman said the union was preparing a briefing paper for MPs which would set out concerns about the bill. This was likely to include the question of whether MPs could be confident the bill did comply with human rights law. Mr Morley has justified the new laws by saying the proposed new bill would improve culling efficiency in the event of a disease epidemic. "Vets in Thirsk were adamant that appeals and delays were stopping them from getting on top of [foot-and-mouth] disease," said Mr Morley. (warmwell note: but when pressed to name farms or farmers concerned, did not do so) But he denied that farmers would lose all right to appeal claiming they could still appeal informally before culling took place. (warmwell note: but as David Curry, the chairman of the EFRA Committee pointed out, the animals would, by then, be dead)
Nov 9

Union writes to MPs on Animal Bill
Farmers Weekly

By Isabel Davies
THE National Farmers' Union has written to MPs asking them to make sure that "shortcomings" in the proposed Animal Health Bill are rectified. The letter, sent in advance of the Bill's second reading on Monday (12 November), draws attentions to issues of concern to the union. Barney Holbeche, NFU head of parliamentary affairs, wrote in the letter that farmers look to MPs to rectify "the many shortcomings it contains". He added: "The timing of this Bill is curious, and its provisions and drafting show all sign of a rushed job." ........... it asks: "Will the government publish its legal advice that such a wide power is compatible with the European convention on Human Rights?" If ministers are keen to make sure the risk from animal diseases are minimised they must do more to tackle illegal imports, the NFU says. ....... The union has reservations that the Bill would enable officials to get warrants to enter farms by applying to a single Justice of the Peace. Farmers or their representatives would not be present to counter any of the information presented in support of the application, it notes.
posted Nov 9

Curbs are lifted on 8,500 farms
Telegraph

By Sandra Barwick
MOVEMENT restrictions on farmers in a large part of the North were reduced last night but farmers gave a warning that heavy snow meant the beginning of severe problems for stock still trapped in blue box zones.
A spokesman for the National Farmers' Union in the North-West said it was "deeply frustrating and disappointing" that despite the changes Lancashire, which has not had a case of foot and mouth since June, remained classified as a High Risk county. The Blue Box in south Cumbria remains as it is, but the one around Allendale in Northumberland has been reduced. In all, restrictions have been reduced on 8,496 farms in North Yorkshire, Northumberland, Lancashire and Cumbria. The rural affairs minister, Lord Whitty, said: "This is an important step forward, and reflects a considerable achievement by teams on the ground carrying out the programme of blood testing. "I would emphasise that now, as always, vigilance and strict biosecurity are essential. We cannot afford to relax our guard, and it is the responsibility of everyone - farmers, Defra officers and the wider community - to maintain standards and ensure that this disease is eradicated." (warmwell note: how we wish he would give this self-righteous and unnecessary preaching a rest)

Rural businesses from across Britain yesterday took the first step to suing the government over its handling of the foot and mouth crisis.

A coalition of businesses from all industries affected by the outbreak joined under the banner of the UK Rural Business Campaign to press ahead with an action that they estimated could cost the government a minimum of £500 million. They said they had been forced into action by the government's refusal to hold a public inquiry into the outbreak and the discriminatory manner in which ministers handled compensation. "The human tragedy of it all is about to be exposed," said a spokesman.
Nov 9

Failure to apply for farm aid 'uncaring'
Telegraph


THE Government's decision not to apply for money from Brussels to help farmers hit by the foot and mouth crisis was described by the Tories as shoddy and uncaring.
Anne McIntosh (C, Vale of York) said that the Government's refusal to apply for agri-monetary compensation sent the wrong signal to the farming community: that the Government saw "no viable future" for British farming.
Hugo Swire (C, East Devon) called for Devon county council to be compensated for the £25,000 cost of holding its own inquiry into the foot and mouth crisis. "There can be no one left in the country who believes this Government cares about rural communities and farmers," he said.
Henry Bellingham (C, NW Norfolk) said that the average income of West Norfolk grain farmers had fallen to £5,000 a year. They had been shedding staff, cutting spending on local services and felt that this treatment was "extremely shabby". He added: "The point is that this money was available and the Government didn't apply for it."
Nov 9

Foot-and-mouth curbs lifted on Northern farms
Ananova

Movement restrictions imposed during the foot-and-mouth epidemic have been lifted on almost 8,500 farms in the north of England. Restrictions have now been ended on 95.3% of all the farms on which they were imposed. Only four areas, covering some 6,630 farms, are now under controls. They include two parts of Cumbria and small zones around Hexham, in Northumberland, and Skipton, North Yorkshire. The last confirmed case of foot-and-mouth came more than five weeks ago on September 30, but vets are carrying out thorough blood-testing surveys of sheep and goats around infected areas before restrictions are lifted. The 8,496 farms covered by the latest lifting of controls are in North Yorkshire, Northumberland, Lancashire and Cumbria. Some 5,026 farms in Cumbria and County Durham were released on Wednesday. ....................
Nov 9

Labour Lord demands 'drastic cull' of 470 life peers
EPXnews.com

Labour's Lord Desai has called for a "drastic cull" of 470 life peers to make space for elected or independent members of a reformed House of Lords. "Why are they being soft on existing life peers? Why don't they go the way they went with hereditary peers," he asked a Westminster Charter 88 meeting. "What I would have preferred of the current life membership is drastic culling leaving more room for elected or independent members." The veteran Labour politician, LSE professor and life peer since 1991 would like to see the government move quickly on the 587 life peers, which government white paper proposals will leave in place, to free up room for new members in a reformed chamber. Or he argues reform must wait a long time for a "few timely deaths" to make space for change. "Many of us are very old and may pop off but a lot of people are very young," he said. "Why this long space of transition?" Desai supports an election within the life peerage - similar to the contest that whittled down their hereditary counterparts in 1999 - to scrap 80 per cent of their numbers. "Rather than let the government's arbitrary rules or age to cull, I think we should have an open culling system and should reduce life peers to a fifth of their size," he said. The veteran Labour politician is sanguine about the political row that would follow. "I like blood all over the place," he told constitutional reformers. Desai "very strongly" believes in a fully elected chamber. "The public has a right to choose who will govern it," he said
.(warmwell note: .... giving us "the right to choose who governs it?" by destroying the only group not directly under the thumb of the Prime Minister able and prepared to challenge government meddling?....what utter humbug....and what a revealing choice of imagery)
Nov 9

U.S. push for cheap Cipro haunts AIDS drug dispute
San Francisco Chronicle

- A new round in the battle over cheap AIDS drugs for poor countries is shaping up as World Trade Organization ministers meet in Qatar Friday, with the Bush administration facing charges of rank hypocrisy. Just two weeks after the administration muscled steep price concessions from Bayer AG for its anthrax antibiotic Cipro, U.S. trade negotiators in Doha, Qatar, will be fighting a bid by developing nations to ease patent protection against knockoff versions of costly drugs that treat AIDS. At issue is a declaration proposed by 60 countries that would clearly affirm the right to sidestep patent laws in the name of public health - in particular "to ensure access to medicines for all." "Nothing," the draft proposal declares, "... shall prevent members from taking measures to protect public health." Brazil and India, which do not fully recognize patent protections on AIDS drugs and make low-cost versions, are primary backers of the declaration. The United States is staunchly opposed. "The Cipro thing was timely," said James Love, of Consumer Project on Technology in Washington, D.C., an organization founded by Ralph Nader. "When the U.S. did not like the price of a medicine, we were very fast to say we might override patent rights. When Brazil did the same thing (for AIDS drugs), they were savaged."
Nov 9

Sheep chaperone works wonders for hens
Ananova

A farmer has told of his secret weapon to improve the egg yield of his hens - sheep. Bill Martin, from Kent, says his free-range birds now produce 10% more eggs after he introduced sheep into their fields. He puts the success down to the fact that the hens protected by the sheep. He said: "Hens are timid animals and can get distressed if there is a loud noise like a plane going over. By putting the sheep in with them they seem to relax - and happy hens produce better eggs." ....
Nov 9

Strasbourg to hold public inquiry into FMD
The Scotsman

BRITISH farmers will get their full public inquiry into the handling of the foot-and-mouth crisis - but it will be held in Strasbourg and not London, it was revealed at the weekend. This follows a free vote in the European Parliament in which more than the required 25 per cent of the house voted in favour of the inquiry.
"It is now incumbent on the president of the parliament to set up that inquiry into the handling of the foot-and-mouth disease outbreak in Britain," said James Provan, MEP for South East England and a member of the European Parliament's Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee.
He said the inquiry would be able to call ministers, government officials and vets to give evidence. It is expected to be up and running early next year. "It will be the same as the government inquiry into BSE, which was very thorough and extremely critical of the British government. "It is designed to make the public aware of what the management was like and what happened to European taxpayers; money," said Provan, a former Scottish farmer and MEP for North East Scotland.
A public inquiry has been rejected by the UK government . Instead, in August it announced three smaller inquiries to look into the science of the outbreak, lessons learned and future policy directions for food and farming.
This was typical of a government that appeared to be taking every opportunity to screw those in rural areas into the ground, said Provan. A further example was its refusal to apply for the £1 billion of reserves available in Brussels to compensate farmers for the strength of sterling which had cut UK support prices by 25 per cent. "Under present circumstances it is not a single market because of the terms of trade and sheer bureaucracy imposed on British farmers. " Provan, who was speaking at the British Deer Farmers Association annual meeting in Sussex on the day of the official start of the hunting season, also criticised the government's anti-hunting policy as a further attack on the countryside. .......
(posted Nov 8 but published Nov 5)

Forest of Dean Action "Foot and Mouth Action Group" Public Inquiry Call
FoD Press Release

FOREST OF DEAN FMD ACTION GROUP CALL PUBLIC MEETING TO CHALLENGE NEW LEGISLATION & CALL FOR MAJOR PUBLIC INQUIRY INTO FOOT & MOUTH Given the draconian legislation now before parliament the Forest of Dean FMD Action Group have called a public meeting to discuss what this means for the Forest. Also the Inquiries announced into FMD are proving totally inadequate to deal with dreadful mismanagement we witnessed in the Forest - we must make sure our views are heard again.
Carole Youngs, one of the organisers said "Changes to the Animal Health Act will make it impossible for any farmer to appeal against a culling order, and illegal to resist the slaughter of healthy animals:
Had this law applied at the time when the FoD FMD Action Group was actively supporting farmers and smallholders to protect their healthy animals, we would all have been acting illegally and the animals would all have been slaughtered." Given that there were no positive cases of FMD in any of the Contiguous culls in the Forest of Dean there can be no justification for the draconian and punitive legislation now proposed. ......We desperately need a major Public Inquiry to get to the root cause of what went so wrong in the Foot & Mouth epidemic. The Inquiries announced by the Govt are proving to be absolutely futile -......... (warmwell note: Details of the meeting: Tuesday 13 November 2001 7.00pm Forest Hill Golf Club, Coleford )

Businesses taking legal action over foot-and-mouth
Ananova

Rural businesses are taking the first step in a planned legal action over the Government's handling of the foot-and-mouth crisis. Traders meeting in Birmingham are to establish the UK Rural Business Campaign. It aims to bring a class action for the financial losses suffered during the epidemic. The meeting is being addressed by Stephen Alexander, partner of Class Law Solicitors, and other experts who will be advising on the strategy to be followed. The firm is already acting on behalf of the Powys Rural Business Campaign, which has organised the meeting.
Mr Alexander said: "The Government does not want to hold a public inquiry. "However, we will be presenting evidence in open court and their lawyers will have to respond. "The public will get the inquiry it deserves - and businesses the damages they deserve - through the court unless this matter is settled in their favour." Mr Alexander said the group is inviting other rural business campaigns and individuals adversely affected by foot-and-mouth to join in a united legal action to recover damages. He said businesses from foot-and-mouth-affected areas such as Cumbria, North Yorkshire, the Midlands and the West Country have indicated they will be joining the campaign.
(more details and contact number here)
Nov 8

After foot-and-mouth, now it's salmon
The Scotsman

Fordyce Maxwell Rural Affairs Editor
SLAUGHTER to control animal disease is becoming increasingly contentious. Most attention is on foot-and-mouth disease, where more than a dozen inquiries are being held into an epidemic in which more than six million cattle, sheep and pigs have been slaughtered. One of those inquiries is an independent one by the Royal Society of Edinburgh. But the society is also carrying out an inquiry into a disease of farmed salmon, which raises similar questions about causes and methods of control or eradication. Infectious salmon anaemia (ISA) is a viral disease which, like foot-and-mouth, poses no threat to human health. ...... However, unlike foot-and-mouth and a crucial difference for salmon farmers, there is no government compensation for lost stock.
Nov 8

Sheep are not just woolly thinkers
Telegraph

By Roger Highfield, Science Editor
SHEEP, far from being woolly brained, have memories that would do credit to an elephant, says a new study. Scientists have been under-estimating ovine intelligence, says the Babraham Institute in Cambridge.
"Sheep are much more sophisticated than we thought, even similar to us in some abilities," said Dr Keith Kendrick, who has spent more than a decade trying to fathom their minds. The study by his team suggests that, while apparently mindlessly ruminating, sheep could be thinking about long-absent flock-mates - victims of foot and mouth culls, perhaps - or even shepherds. ................ Dr Kendrick said: "The implication of our work is that sheep have a rich and important facial environment. Farmers should avoid changing it all the time and keep their company as stable as possible."
Nov 8

'Crucial' delay on foot and mouth
Telegraph

By Sandra Barwick
THE three-day delay in banning animal movements after identification of the first case of foot and mouth caused the epidemic to be between one third and one half greater than it need have been, scientists said yesterday. If half of the epidemic could have been avoided, it would have saved the taxpayer at least £1 billion, and three million animals need not have been slaughtered. Prof Mark Woolhouse, of the Centre for Tropical Veterinary Medicine in Edinburgh, told the Commons environment select committee that the delay alone had resulted in the death of many livestock. Modelling by his team had shown that the epidemic could have been halved by swifter action. Foot and mouth was being incubated "all over the country almost before we knew the disease was there". Prof Roy Anderson, of Imperial College, told the committee: "In foot and mouth, speed is of the essence. Draconian movement restrictions - instantaneously. It seems ludicrous to say a three-day delay was crucial. But it was crucial." The disease was noticed by a vet on Feb 19 at Cheale Meats, in Essex, and confirmed the next day. But a ban on animal movements was not made until Feb 23.
Other models have found that if the Government had slaughtered animals on infected premises within 24 hours of the start of the epidemic, 40 per cent of the outbreak would have been prevented. The committee also heard views on the "contiguous cull" policy. If the epidemic broke out again, the controversial policy of culling on nearby farms which were not showing any signs of infection should be extended rather than the reverse, Prof Woolhouse said. "We would look hard at extending the cull in the immediate area," he said, adding that he believed that more research was needed to target culls. This was because, in the epidemic, half of all new cases arose within one and a half kilometres of premises that already had the disease. These had usually been missed for a variety of reasons, he said, not just resistance to slaughter.
Nov 8

Sheep farmers oppose tagging plans
Farmers Weekly

By Alistair Driver in Malvern
LIVESTOCK farmers have vowed to oppose government proposals to introduce individual identification for sheep. National Sheep Association chief executive John Thorley said officials had told him of proposals for every sheep to be individually identified twice. Speaking at the Association's conference in Malvern on Wednesday (7 November) he said the proposals would involved too much paperwork. He said he made his opposition clear there and then because the new measures would be impractical for sheep farmers. "We have approached the Meat and Livestock Commission to act a broker to develop a system that our industry could cope with," he said Mr Thorley also hit out at comments made by Food and Farming Minister Lord Whitty earlier the same day. "I am concerned at the fact that he believes the 20-day standstill will be a part of the future," Mr Thorley said. Referring to a impromptu vote taken after a conference speech by Lord Whitty, Mr Thorley said the industry could not cope with the rule.
Nov 7

Haskins to give up the day jobs?
Farmers' Weekly

By Adrienne Francis
NORTHERN FOODS and Express Dairies have refused to comment on speculation that Lord Haskins is about to quit as chairman of both companies. An e-mail sent to 2000 dairy farmers by quota brokers Ian Potter Associates claims that the Labour Peer will announce he is stepping down next week. "Lord Christopher Haskins is to step down on Friday, 17 November as chairman of Northern Foods and Express Dairies," the email says. But Northern Foods and Express Dairies declined to comment on the claim.

BSE tests 'may miss infected animals'
Ananova

Professor Roy Anderson has warned faulty tests may mean infected animals are being missed.
He told the Commons select committee on environment, food and rural affairs that current tests for the disease need urgent verification.
He said: "I have a horrible feeling that there is an underestimate of the figures in Europe. I want this scientific work done," he said after speaking to the committee. I want to know what the sensitivity of this test is by the stage of incubation of the animal." ( warmwell note: does anyone understand that? We do not.) It is possible official figures overstated the problem, the professor said. But he added: "It is more likely to be an underestimate." Vets should be given automatic powers to go on to farms and conduct random tests for BSE or other diseases such as foot-and-mouth, Professor Anderson said. Earlier the Government's chief scientific adviser, Professor David King, told MPs that BSE still existed in the British beef herd. And it is still "possible" that sheep had contracted BSE after huge flaws were uncovered in the major study that was supposed to settle the issue, Professor King admitted. However, he added: "I would underline what the Food Standards Agency is certainly saying - there is no reason to deter people from eating lamb, British lamb."
Nov 7

Health fears over pesticide chemical
Ananova

Government ministers are proposing to suspend approval for the use of pesticide products containing dichlorvos because of public health fears.
Dichlorvos has been at the centre of controversy in the past. Critics alleging it is one of the organophosphates linked to nervous disorders and might also be implicated in Gulf War syndrome. It has been sold in the UK and worldwide since the early 1960s and its uses include slow-release strips and aerosols to control flying and crawling insects.
Two senior ministers are currently prevented by court order from going ahead with the suspension, or announcing their intention, as the move has come under legal challenge from Amvac Chemical UK Ltd, a company which makes dichlorvos. Urgent legal intervention by Amvac prevented the ministers - Margaret Beckett, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), and Stephen Byers, Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions - going ahead with suspension and publicly announcing the move in August this year. But news of the proposed suspension became public knowledge for the first time this week because the judge hearing the case in London refused to allow the commercially sensitive challenge to be heard in private. Mr Justice Crane ruled the matter must be heard in the public domain. He made his decision after Richard McManus QC, for the ministers, said the case was a matter of considerable public importance and public confidence in the regulatory regime relating to pesticides was unlikely to be enhanced if public law challenges were to be conducted under a cloak of secrecy. Amvac Chemical UK Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Amvac Chemical Corporation, of California, is seeking judicial review of plans to suspend regulatory authorisation for its dichlorvos products.
Nov 7

Defra is accused of bid to curtail auction marts
Newcastle Journal

The farming industry yesterday accused Defra of trying to curtail the auction mart system and make the 21-day standstill permanent. According to the National Beef Association the Government chief vet's determination to blame the devastation of the foot-and-mouth outbreak on the delivery of 16 infected sheep into an auction market confirms an animal health reform agenda within Defra.
It says it is obvious the Government's animal health specialists will do all they can to cut back on animal movement and are prepared to make moves ahead of the results of its own FMD inquiries to secure their aims.
NBA chairman Robert Robinson, from Alnwick, said: "It is clear Defra is trying to deflect criticism of its failure to prevent the appearance of FMD virus inside the UK, its inability to spot the disease until it had been present for 17-18 days and its struggle to get on top of the epidemic by blaming others for its short- comings. ....
"In these circumstances we think it is shortsighted and unfair for Defra to try to shrink the effectiveness of the much needed auction system and make it more difficult than it ought to be to resurrect prime cattle sales and the transfer of store, breeding and cull stock through the UK-wide market network."
The NBA is worried about the continuation by Defra of temporary but difficult movement restrictions after FMD has disappeared and FMD legislation is suspended. "The FMD Control orders cannot continue if there have been no cases in Britain for three months and no live virus is circulating," Mr Robinson said.
"Unfortunately the new rules are unlikely to be agreed until the recommendations made by the FMD inquiries have been made public - which may not happen until July or August. "If this is the case a temporary regime operating outside the authority of EU law on FMD would have to be introduced and we are worried that Defra will use this stop-gap internal legislation to keep as many animals as it can out of auction markets over the first half of next year and also continue with the extremely difficult 21-day limit," he added.
posted Nov 7

Farm disease tally lowered
Telegraph

By Sandra Barwick
ONLY eight of the 103 farms that took legal action to save their animals from slaughter went on to develop foot and mouth, Elliot Morley, the agriculture minister, admitted yesterday. He had previously claimed at the launch of the Animal Health Bill that one in five had been infected. The Bill, which is being rushed through Parliament, receives its second reading on Monday. It gives draconian powers to kill cattle, sheep, goats and other ruminants in outbreaks of a wide variety of diseases.
Mr Morley also conceded at a meeting of the environment select committee that, although judicial review of decisions to slaughter would be possible under the Bill, the disputed animals would already be dead. The Bill was necessary because appeals against culls were felt to have hampered the fight against foot and mouth. Previous powers to make contiguous culls had been limited.
The Bill gives the Government power to slaughter even when animals can be shown to be healthy and proved never to have been in contact with the disease. Farmers who object can appeal to a Government vet. If they continue to refuse despite their appeal being rejected, the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs can apply to a magistrate for permission to enter the premises by force and carry out the slaughter. The Bill, which is expected to become law early next year, creates a new criminal offence of infecting animals with disease.
Nov 7

EU vets vote to ease UK meat export restrictions
Financial Times

By Michael Mann in Brussels and John Mason in London
Britain will be able to export lamb and mutton for the first time since the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in February, after chief vets from the European Union's 15 member countries voted on Tuesday to ease export restrictions. The decision will allow exports of fresh sheep and goat meat from the Scottish islands, most of Scotland, some parts of eastern England and parts of Wales. Some game exports will also be permitted. .......
Meanwhile, the Country Land and Business Association said ministers were wrong to suggest farming had a bleak future and must play a smaller role in the rural economy.
The farming industry in Britain is as efficient as those in other European countries but has simply suffered more from external problems such as disease and poor exchange rates, it said.
The result of all these factors was that ministers now implicitly backed a reduction in the role of British farming. This ignored economic fundamentals and was not in the national interest, the association said.
In evidence to the Independent Policy Commission of Farming, set up by Tony Blair, prime minister, after the foot-and-mouth crisis, the association called on the government to continue reducing production subsidies but to offer more support to farmers hit by unexpected events. The report said British farming had been severely damaged by the succession of animal diseases such as BSE, foot-and-mouth and classical swine fever and the fall of world commodity prices.
"What makes the UK different is that we are the only country to suffer all of these occurrences virtually simultaneously," it said. In addition, Britain had to cope with severe fluctuation caused by the strength of the pound against other European currencies and the euro. "The result has been a decade of currency-determined boom and bust for UK farming."
Nov 7

Last chance for our villages
Western Daily Press

AN urgent last effort must be made to save Britain's rural way of life, it was claimed last night. ........ The Countryside Agency .... .. will today publish its most detailed report ever on the quality of such essential services in the countryside, comparing the position in 1997 with last year. And because the countryside has been devastated since then by the foot-and-mouth crisis, it is likely some problems will have got worse since the survey was compiled. The agency, which is headed by the Government's countryside czar, Somerset landowner Ewen Cameron, has found some success stories, especially with the number of village halls rising dramatically with help from lottery cash. And rural transport is recovering from the "all-time low of 1997, with an increase in the number of parishes with a good bus service.
But there is growing concern about post offices, which are seen by many rural people as the most important service, as they distribute pensions and benefits, while many sell food and other provisions. The survey underlines the urgency of the Western Daily Press Don't Stamp Out Our Post Offices campaign, which was supported by nearly four million people. ...... Somerton & Frome Liberal Democrat MP David Heath will tomorrow tackle the Government over the future of post offices in a special Commons debate.
The MP, a strong supporter of the Press campaign, said it was time to put post offices back in the political spotlight. He said the Government was still not clear about how the Universal Bank would operate and that uncertainly caused problems for the people who run post offices.
The report identifies the most important core local services as a post office, a pub, a shop and some form of public transport - and it shows how the smaller a village is, the more likely its residents are to miss out completely. The new research finds that places with around 400 residents have only a 15 per cent chance of having all four services, while for those with about 1,200 it is 65 per cent. But a quarter of villages with a population of 1,400 are likely to be without some of the key services, although there are variations around the country. There is a distinct North-South divide, with small places in Yorkshire, the North-east and the North-west doing much better than the rest of England.
In the South-west, just 5.4 per cent of villages and hamlets with fewer than 500 residents have all four most important services, and 29 per cent of those with a population of more than 750 lack at least one.
The report is published at a time when confidence in the Government's commitment to the countryside has come into question following the foot-and-mouth crisis. Tony Blair's refusal to allow a full public inquiry into the way the epidemic was handled has angered many rural people. And the axing of the discredited Ministry of Agriculture after the General Election in June appears to have made little difference, with its replacement, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, making a series of blunders. Labour claimed when it first won power to have more rural MPs than the other parties put together and it retained almost all of the seats in June, some in places where it had not been in force for generations. But the Prime Minister knows he cannot hope to win a third term unless he can deliver his promised improvements in public services across the whole of the UK. And that will mean finding a way of boosting schools, health services and the police in remote areas, rather than forcing people to head to the bigger towns and cities. Labour will also have to scrap the current system of distributing Government money, which has long worked against West counties such as Somerset, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire.....
Nov 7

Dying on its feetthe prosperous commuter community that's lost its reason to be
Western Daily Press

SHEILA Kent stands in the village shop that used to be her pride and joy but shelves are now empty, freezers have been defrosted and the parish noticeboard inside displays posters that no customer will ever see. ....... Over in the village pub, the Ring o' Hands, Roger Foster points out his gallery of photos charting Compton Martin's progress through the 20th Century. There is the village school photograph, taken during the 1930s. Every child in the village is here, from angelic urchins, to hefty lads with their chests puffed out. The school closed in the 1950s. There is the Home Guard photo, with familiar faces from the school line-up. It was taken in the days when the would have known each other like brothers, in an unshakeable sense of community. In the pub, Roger says times have changed, but his pub has adapted. The large car park is one of the main reasons the pub has survived while those in other villages have closed. Like the chicken and the egg, the decline in services has gone hand in hand with the replacement of one community with another. The new residents of Compton Martin and hundreds of other villages in the West, simply don't need a shop, a bus to the local town, or a daily milk delivery. There could well be more people from Compton Martin in Bristol during the day than are left in the village. But no one feels the transition between farming community to dormitory village more than Heather Dury, a resident for more than 60 years. She was shocked when the shop closed and angry that no one but her did anything about it - she wrote a letter to the Western Daily Press. "All villages are just becoming dormitory villages where people sleep," she said. "If they want groceries they go to the supermarket, if they want entertainment they go back into Bristol. I can't see how this can be reversed and it is really sad.
Nov 7

Government warns French over farming protectionism
Financial Times

By Brian Groom, Political Editor
The UK government issued a thinly-veiled warning to France on Tuesday not to let its desire to protect French farmers stand in the way of a deal to launch a new world trade round. Patricia, Hewitt, trade and industry minister, also disclosed that Britain was pressing the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to make a joint commitment to help the poorest countries adapt to the opening up of their markets.
Diplomats believe the economic damage inflicted by the September 11 attack on the US has increased the chances of reaching agreement at the World Trade Organisation's five-day meeting in Doha, in the Gulf state of Qatar.
Ms Hewitt, in a speech to the Foreign Press Association in London, said the attack had not only shed the blood of innocents, but was also an attack on world trade. It could hurt developing countries in Africa and Asia as much as, if not more than, the west.
She said one answer to the atrocity "must be to commit ourselves wholeheartedly" to the success of the new round. She said she was optimistic that the round was "within our grasp", but there were hard issues to tackle in the endgame.
A potential stumbling block was resistance by agricultural protectionists, of which France is the biggest in the European Union, to cutting tariffs and subsidies. Ms Hewitt said: "How can we expect agricultural economies to come to the negotiating table and bring down tariff barriers when we ourselves operate a protectionist regime for agriculture? It is essential that those European countries that have been dragging their feet now recognise the inevitability of change and send a strong signal that [agricultural policy] reform is something we will do, and do soon."
She disclosed that Tony Blair has written to the directors-general of the IMF and the World Bank urging them to help developing countries with training, technical assistance and other measures to build their capacity to trade and participate in the WTO.
Nov 7

(warmwell note: not everyone has such confidence in the IMF and WTO. See for example: )

Kenya: IMF, World Bank blamed for crisis in agricultural sector
Hoover.com

President Daniel arap Moi today said that the liberalization of the economy had adversely affected the grain sector reducing farmers' earnings. President Moi noted that with the government no longer setting the prices for grains, such as maize, prices had been left to the dictate of market forces. President Moi said that these conditions were set by the International Monetary Fund, IMF, and the World Bank way back in 1991. The president, therefore, told leaders to explain to farmers the true situation so that the government was not blamed for things beyond its control. He said that the government was doing everything possible to ensure farmers were not exploited by middle men. President Moi urged farmers not to sell their maize at throw away prices but to wait and sell the same to the National Cereals and Produce Board for better profits. ....
Nov 7

Molecular Farming Under Fire
wired.com

By Charles Mandel
(warmwell note: changes in farming are accelerating all over the world. The biotech and pharmaceutical companies will soon be fully in charge - of animal health measures and of crops, and most certainly of "research" - unless the public sees clearly what is in store and raises its voice in protest. Unlikely.) OTTAWA -- The next wave of genetically altered plants are on the horizon, and activists are warning the hue and cry over plant molecular farming will dwarf any previous controversy over other such products. The new outcry over plant molecular farming coincides with a public forum currently underway in Ottawa. The federal government's Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has called for the public's views on plant molecular farming --or "pharming" as it's sometimes referred to in the industry. The one-day forum and three-day technical conference are meant to help the CFIA as they draft new regulatory directives for 2002. While no plants for molecular farming are currently approved in Canada, the government wants its regulatory framework in place before the practice takes off.
Nov 7

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture to Visit Qatar for Vital Trade Meetings
Freerealtime.com

-- Ann Veneman's commitment to increase U.S. agricultural exports will soon take her into one of the world's troubled regions. The U.S. secretary of agriculture, and a Modesto native, Veneman visits the Middle East country of Qatar next week to discuss the next round of World Trade Organization negotiations. "Trade is critical to the profitability of U.S. agriculture," Veneman said. "Agricultural exports account for 25 percent of farmers' gross sales." ....................... While tariffs are an obstacle to moving more U.S.-produced ag products overseas, sanitary restrictions can also make it difficult for farmers to export. Those include blocking goods because of fears of pests or disease, or concerns about food safety. Using science to resolve those issues "will help increase access to world markets for U.S. farmers, ranchers and food producers," Veneman said. Veneman noted that the Bush Administration has made progress in creating and strengthening foreign markets for U.S. food and ag products, including China's entry into the WTO, and maintaining U.S. beef exports to Korea and feed corn gluten feed exports to Mexico Veneman's voyage actually begins this week, when she meets with foreign trade ministers at the 31st Food and Agriculture Organization meeting in Rome. She will also speak on the importance of fair trade for the development of biotechnology. Veneman is expected to stress biotechnology's potential to help feed the developing world, improve nutrition, prevent losses to pests and disease and reduce the use of harmful chemicals. (warmwell note: i.e. clearing the way for Monsanto etc. Greenpeace said last month it was sending its flagship, Rainbow Warrior, to Qatar with about 35 activists on board to protest at the WTO meeting. The group said it had official permission. Industrialised countries are pressing for a new trade round but developing countries are reluctant, saying they have seen little benefit from earlier trade liberalisation.)
Nov 7

Australian farmers complain over US farm subsidies
ABCnet.australia

Australia's peak farming group says further United States farm subsidies will put many Australian producers out of business. National Farmers Federation President, Ian Donges, says the United States government is debating a bill, which if adopted, would provide 170-billion dollars in farm subsidies for the next 10 years. "Well the consequences are quite horrific even monumental if you look no further than what is happening in the sugar industry the cotton industry right now. But most of blame has to go back to the US trade practices. These practices and these distortions will continue perhaps for another 10 years which is absolutely incredible."
Nov 7

GOVERNMENT policy towards agriculture is making life impossible for Northern Ireland farmers, it was claimed today.
Belfast Telegraph

And the Ulster Farmers Union slammed Whitehall for refusing to claim agrimonetary compensation from Brussels for cereals farmers. UFU president Douglas Rowe said: "Government policy is crippling farmers' ability to be competitive in the international marketplace. "The Common Agriculture Policy aims to give all farmers in Europe a fair choice at making a decent living. But the Government continually refuses to use the CAP to the advantage of its farmers. "There is £1m available to help our local cereal farmers cope with the problems caused by the strength of sterling. "It is disgraceful the Government has ignored this opportunity and prefers instead to see the financial hardships on farms continue."
Nov 7

Probe shows need for full inquiry
Newcastle Journal

Devon County Council's foot-and-mouth public inquiry has shown the need for such an investigation at national level the Country Land and Business Association said yesterday. According to the organisation the speed and the effectiveness with which Devon County Council was able to gather evidence and publish an interim report demonstrated the process need not be so painful as the Government seemed to assume. The CLA provided one of 360 written submissions as well as joining 50 other organisations and individuals who gave evidence to the inquiry. CLA regional director Antony Haslam said: "We wholeheartedly endorse the findings of this inquiry, which actually vindicate much of what we said in the North-East during the course of the crisis. "We must never lose sight of the devastation this has caused to the whole of our rural economy and, in that respect, the fact that this inquiry has been held in public shows what can be done." ...... Mr Haslam said: "I think we were deeply disappointed Defra chose not to be represented at this inquiry a...... "To have read the submissions, listened to the witnesses and produced this report within the space of a couple of months shows that it can be done. We hope it will be given serious attention by every aspect of the Government's own three-pronged inquiry and that the Government will learn from it and from the fact that it has been held in public."
Nov 6

Blinded by the funeral pyres
The Times

BY MAGNUS LINKLATER
The Government is to speed up the slaughter of animals at risk of foot-and-mouth disease and claims that vaccination does not work. Ministers refuse to see the truth
The Government still believes in mass slaughter. Last week, an Animal Health (Amendment) Bill that gives the authorities greater powers to authorise swifter culling of animals simply because they risk spreading foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) was published in the House of Commons. Ministers want to stop farmers pursuing legal action, which delayed the slaughter of cattle and sheep. Under the new proposals, farmers will be denied the right to appeal against a decision to cull, and state vets and slaughtermen will have powers of entry to carry out slaughter. Controversially, pets and zoo animals will be included.
If the disease flares up again, the killing, it seems, will simply recommence, but at a faster rate. Yet none of the various inquiries into FMD has been completed to show whether the Government's stance is justified. If anything, the Government's resistance to new thinking has hardened. Last month, the Department for Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) published a weighty document signed by its junior minister, Elliot Morley, that dismisses vaccination as a means of bringing FMD under control. On scientific, practical and economic grounds, Morley says flatly that vaccination would not work.
It is one of the most depressing government documents that I have read. It concludes, in effect, that the policy of mass slaughter, the millions of animals killed, the smoking pyres that have blighted the countryside, the body-blow inflicted on tourism, and the lingering after-effects of empty fields and abandoned farmyards is the method Britain prefers in dealing with FMD.
The bleak conclusion is that we have made little or no advance in how best to tackle the problem. In effect, science has stood still.
And yet this document, which stands as the Government's verdict on FMD, raises as many questions as it answers. It is full of selective arguments, half-truths, poor science and flawed logic. Above all, it simply fails to address whether Britain, unlike almost every other country that has had the disease, has learnt anything from the outbreak. ...... (See full article)

'High risk' of more foot-and-mouth outbreaks
Ananova

.... Animal health minister Elliot Morley has told MPs there is a strong possibility the disease still lies dormant somewhere in the country. He also estimated that the cost to the taxpayer of this year's outbreak will be at least £2 billion. The minister has given the evidence about the Government's Animal Health Bill to the Commons' environment, food and rural affairs select committee. The Defra minister has told the committee that the outbreak would be over officially after no new cases have emerged for three months. As things stand, no new case has been confirmed for more than a month.
He reminded MPs that during the 1967 outbreak there was a similar pause, which was followed by a further series of cases which lasted for three months. Mr Morley said: "We still face the very real and serious prospect of another outbreak, the risks are very high ... the chances of there being latent disease out there are currently high."
Nov 6

Minister faces farmers' fury after blaming them for virus
Western daily Press

FARMERS are demanding the sacking of Animal Health Minister Elliot Morley after he blamed them for spreading foot-and-mouth disease. As the West's livestock industry heads for financial collapse there is also mounting anger at the "weak" response to Mr Morley's new Animal Health Bill by the NFU's national leadership. The Bill will extend Government powers to slaughter animals in the event of a new foot-and-mouth outbreak. But Mr Morley has incensed farmers by suggesting that there was "considerable evidence" that those who resisted culling this year had helped the disease spread. In fact only one farm out of the 150 where culls were contested in the West country was later found to be infected.
(warmwell note: in fact, according to the solicitor involved, 200 farms were saved in Devon, NONE of which subsequently became infected. See also the letter from a QCabout the legal implications of the proposed 'Animal Health Amendment bill, in which DEFRA's allegations about " irresponsible" behaviour by farmers is discussed)

The National Foot-and-Mouth Group now says unless Mr Morley can supply evidence to back his claim then his Bill should be scrapped. In the Forest of Dean, another disease hotspot, none of the 34 contiguous culls proved positive when blood-tested. Not one of the farms had any animals that had been exposed to or contracted the disease, but 18 were culled out before the group's protests stopped the killing. Richard Haddock, spokesman for the South-west's livestock farmers, said: "If Morley cannot put up the evidence then he should be sacked.
"To hear him making accusations like this when it is his own department's stupidity that has magnified the crisis and brought livestock farming to its knees is more than farmers can stomach." Mr Morley has already been accused of "a shameless smear" by NFU officials in the South-west, but the issue has only highlighted the growing rift between regional and national officials.
Farmers have criticised NFU president Ben Gill's response to the Bill, welcoming a new legal framework to set out what measures could be taken in the event of any more outbreaks.
Their anger has grown in recent weeks as the aftershocks of the disease have continued to reverberate through the industry
Nov 6

Foot-and-mouth started by 16 sheep
This is London

by Geraint Smith Science Correspondent
Sixteen sheep spread foot-and-mouth disease across Britain, the Government's chief vet said today.
(warmwell note: reports that the sixteen sheep involved had finally given themselves up at a DEFRA office all bleating apologetically, have not been confirmed as yet.)
Investigations into the origins of the epidemic in which almost six million animals died and 9,000 farms had their livestock eliminated showed that an initial case at a pig farm in Northumberland went unreported for several weeks, Jim Scudamore told the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee.
During that period, the virus infected a handful of sheep farms. From these, six went to a dealer in Lancashire and 10 went through markets in Northumberland and Cumbria, probably infecting thousands of animals directly or indirectly. Waves of secondary and tertiary infection then spread across the country.
The work, to be published as a scientific paper,
(warmwell note: the definition of "science" is somewhat flexible these days, we find) is likely to have a profound-effect on farming in Britain. In the long term, he told the committee, every sheep is likely to carry an electronic ear tag that will identify its origin and movements. There may be rules to slow down movement of animals, especially sheep, including a requirement that an animal moved to a farm must stay there for three weeks.
The disease may even see the end of the traditional livestock market. "The ideal is a situation in which animals are sold without mixing," he said. "The pig industry operates already without markets. People are experimenting with alternatives such as video auctions." Direct sales are also a possibility. That in itself could have a huge knock-on effect on market towns throughout Britain.
(warmwell note; the knock-on effect referred to here is that farmers will lose even more control over prices. The measure has been described as the death blow to livestock farming..a knock-out effect rather than a knock-on one.) Mr Scudamore was asked whether a culling policy that caused so much hardship could be called a success. He said: "What we have done is eliminate the virus." (warmwell note: But Elliot Morley talks today of its "lying dormant", presumably then just waiting to spring back into the headlines) Speaking outside the meeting, he later said: "It has not been a success in terms of people, the rural economy and tourism." He also revealed to the committee that in 20 per cent of cases confirmed from farms, laboratory tests came back negative. Some of these would have been false negatives, he said because the samples had not been taken properly or had been damaged in transit to the laboratory, but some would be real negatives. (warmwell note: We note that he is very careful indeed not to say that the results could have been wrongly given by Pirbright scientists since such veiled suggestions in the past have caused private fury - but rather that they were "not taken properly" or were "damaged in transit". We question the figure of 20% and wonder what then is the percentage of animals killed in contiguous culls, never tested, who were completely free of disease? ) He also said for the first time that vaccination might play a role in preventing a future outbreak (warmell note: but how? when? where? why? Vaccination is "bilge" according to Ben Gill of the NFU while Sir Brian Follett, chairman of the Royal Society Inquiry that has not yet begun its 'independent' deliberations, has just dismissed it, saying, "If anything, all the evidence points that we should continue with the present approach." He dismissed the prospect of protecting British livestock through vaccination, saying vaccination was not available. He also said that vaccination might not be possible for a decade. Who ARE we to believe?)
(posted on) Nov 6

Brazil looks to Doha for progress on fairer farm trade
Financial Times

By Ramond Colitt
...... Brazil is a key participant in the global debate towards freer farm trade before the ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organisation in Doha. As the largest agricultural exporter among developing countries it has been one of the most vocal advocates against farm subsidies and trade barriers in industrialised nations. The Doha meeting, which starts on Friday, will be instrumental in determining whether there will be a shift in world farm production to lower-cost producers such as Brazil. Increases in productivity and cultivated land, based largely on new technologies and investment over the past two decades, have won Brazil considerable comparative advantages over farm production in most industrialised nations. Production costs are lower than in the US by roughly 20 per cent for soybeans, 50 per cent for cotton, and between 10 and 60 per cent for sugar. The outbreak of foot and mouth disease in Europe this year highlighted the health and financial costs of intensive farming practices. By comparison, beef production in Brazil, which is based on pasture feeding, is cheaper and less subject to disease. Brazil's large production of vegetable proteins - it is the world's second-largest soybean producer - also helps to keep down the cost of chicken and pork production, for instance, to between 20 and 30 per cent lower than other big producers. ......
Nov 6

Smallpox attack would create a worldwide crisis
Daily Telegraph

Roger Highfield
THE use of anthrax as a bioterrorist weapon is not nearly as frightening as the threat of attacks using smallpox, said Dr Jim Matthews of Northeastern University in Boston. ....... the Public Health Laboratory Service in Britain also provided new information to doctors on smallpox. Stockpiles of the smallpox virus are now scheduled for destruction on June 30 next year after a vigorous debate among scientists. Some have long argued that smallpox specimens represent a potential biological warfare weapon for terrorists, particularly given the turmoil in the former Soviet Union. Others wanted a stay of execution. Smallpox would be low on the terrorists' shopping list, given that there was an effective vaccine, they argued. The cultures would also be of huge value if there was a resurgence of the disease. Destroying the virus did not erase this threat, they added. The fact that the genetic blueprint of several smallpox strains had already been published provided the means for reconstructing it or transferring part of it to a common-or-garden pox virus. ........ .. Even in 1967 the disease was endemic in more than 40 countries, with 10 million cases. Overall, the virus has killed about a billion people and mutilated millions more. However, in the late 18th century smallpox suffered its first reverse. Edward Jenner showed a way to boost immunity by inoculation with a close relative, the cowpox virus. Effective vaccination followed and the last person to be naturally infected was a Somali cook who succumbed on Oct 26, 1977. Two years later, the world was officially declared free of the scourge. (warmwell note: smallpox was defeated by worldwide vaccination. This is what scientists experienced in the study of FMD, such as Prof Fred Brown, advocate for the elimination of foot and mouth. Continuing ignorant claims that there is no effective vaccine against foot and mouth is mischievous nonsense.)
Nov 6

Warning of smallpox terror risk
Telegraph

By Ben Aris in Moscow, Roger Highfield and Philip Delves Broughton in New York
THE Russian scientist in charge of one of the last known deposits of the smallpox virus called yesterday for the reintroduction of mass vaccination, saying terrorists could easily lure underpaid former Soviet researchers to turn it into a weapon.
"Smallpox is a very dangerous weapon in the hands of terrorists and you don't need some clever way of delivering it," said Dr Lev Sandakhchiyev, director of Russia's Vektor Institute. The Siberian centre holds one of only two official samples of the extinct disease. "All you need is a sick fanatic to get to a populated place. The world health system is completely unprepared for this."
The disease claimed around one billion lives before being declared extinct in 1980. Inoculation has not been routine for decades but, in the light of heightened fears of bioterrorism, worldwide vaccination should be reintroduced, Dr Sandakhchiyev said.
In the past few weeks, following the anthrax attacks in the United States, moves by American and British authorities have underlined how smallpox is considered more than a theoretical concern. However, Prof Harry Smith, chairman of the Royal Society working group on biological weapons, said the call for worldwide vaccination was "going over the top". But he added: "On the other hand, I think smallpox vaccine needs to be ready to immunise key people ...... (warmwell note:...!!...)
Nov 6

More foot-and-mouth curbs relaxed
Yorkshire Post

FARMERS yesterday welcomed the lifting of further foot-and-mouth disease protection zones - this time around Catterick and parts of Ribblesdale - which means that livestock movement restrictions will be eased. Protection zones removed in North Yorkshire also include Tunstall and Patrick Brompton, while in Ribblesdale the freed areas are Rathmell, Pay-thorne, Horton-in-Craven, Newsholme, Gisburn, Bolton-by-Bowland, Clitheroe and Sawley.
Nov 5

Police alert after protester death
The Times

BY RICHARD FORD,
POLICE forces were on alert for potential retaliation by militant animal rights groups yesterday after a jailed protester died on hunger strike. Barry Horne, who was serving 18 years after being convicted of an arson campaign that caused damage amounting to £3 million, died in hospital after refusing food for 16 days. He had been held in Long Lartin top security jail in Worcestershire, where he had been on and off hunger strike throughout the summer. Horne, 49, from Northampton, was transferred from the jail to Ronkswood Hospital in Worcester last Thursday when his condition deteriorated. A Prison Service spokeswoman said he died of kidney failure yesterday. She said his condition had been weakened by sporadic refusal of food since the summer. Horne, described at his trial as an "urban terrorist", embarked on his latest hunger strike in protest at the Government's handling of the foot-and-mouth epidemic, in particular the slaughter of cattle......
Nov 6

Farmers urged to defend Welsh livestock auctions
icWales

Welsh farmers are being asked to urgently respond to a petition organised by the Welsh Livestock Auctioneers Association. The association has sent all its customers - numbering tens of thousands - letters for their signature calling on the rural affairs Minister, Carwyn Jones to make a commitment to the future of the livestock auction system in Wales. The chairman of the association, Glyn Owen hopes to present the first wave of letters to the minister following a public meeting organised by Tory rural affairs spokesman Peter Rogers AM at the national assembly for Wales on Thursday 8th November. The meeting has the backing of both presidents of the two farming unions, Bob Parry of the FUW and Hugh Richards of the NFU who are coming to listen to assembly members debate Mr Rogers' motion. Speaking from his Brynsiencyn farm, Mr Rogers said: "Carwyn Jones has says he doesn't think the auction system is fair to farmers. That's not true - the auctions are essential to achieving a fair price for farmers' stock, and have provided invaluable support to the industry during the foot and mouth crisis. "Farmers right across Wales are telling me that without the auctions the price of their stock has plummeted. The message must be that if you want to save the auctions sign and return letter immediately."
posted Nov 6

Consult us on animal Bill - beef men
Farmers Weekly

By Alistair Driver
BEEF producers are accusing the government of trying to rush through laws to deal with future disease outbreaks without proper consultation. A proposed Animal Health Bill would force farmers to comply with orders to cull livestock in the event of another foot-and-mouth epidemic. The National Beef Association said it supported culling infected stock. But killing too many animals would create problems, it added. "It can produce queues that block the disposal and encourage disease spread," said NBA vice-chairman Keith Redpath.
"The NBA would have been much happier if the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs had talked to livestock farmers. Mr Redpath said the Bill should have included more detail on identifying animals for contiguous culling and keeping wasteful killing to a minimum.
And he criticised the publication of the Bill ahead of two foot-and-mouth inquiries that will recommend how to tackle future outbreaks.
The government should have waited until the conclusions of the inquiries before publishing a Bill containing rules that will cover the next epidemic. The NBA has also responded to recent comments by chief veterinary officer Jim Scudamore about the role of livestock markets in the epidemic. Mr Scudamore, who blamed auctions for spreading the disease, confirmed an "animal health reform agenda" within Defra, claim NBA leaders NBA chairman Robert Robinson said the government wanted to curtail auction markets and make a 21-day livestock movement limit permanent. "It is clear that Defra is trying to deflect criticism of its failure by blaming others for its shortcomings," he said.
Nov 5

Foot-and-mouth protest 'murder' trial date set
Ananova

A farm worker accused of attempted murder after allegedly charging a police cordon in a stolen mechanical digger is to face trial. Stephen Andrew Morgan, 27, of was remanded in custody after the hearing at Swansea Crown Court. The alleged attack happened in April this year at the height of a community protest against plans for a mass burial of slaughtered carcasses in Mid-Wales. Morgan denies attempted murder, assault occasioning actual bodily harm, taking and driving a bulldozer and dangerous driving. He also denies eight separate offences of damaging property with intent to endanger life. The trial will start on November 13. Protesters turned out to demonstrate at the Epynt Firing Range, near Brecon as it was being prepared for use. A Swansea policeman, drafted in during the demonstration, was injured when his patrol car was damaged. (warmwell note: the Epynt disaster is one of the least well publicised stories of the whole sorry foot and mouth crisis. The frustration felt in Epynt was immense. While anyone of any sense will feel sympathy for the injured policeman, it is hardly fair, we feel, to report on this story as if it were a case of attempted murder.) Story filed: 14:55 Monday 5th November 2001
Nov 5

ROYAL SOCIETY INQUIRY INTO FMD IS A FOREGONE CONCLUSION
National Foot and Mouth Group Press Release

Sir Brian Follett, Chairman of the RS Inquiry, has already made his views known on many of the key issues of the Inquiry, even though the Call for Detailed Evidence was only issued 3 weeks ago and the closing date for submissions is not until the 30 November 2001.
Speaking to farmers in Cumbria Sir Brian Follett said "If anything, all the evidence points that we should continue with the present approach." He dismissed the prospect of protecting British livestock through vaccination, saying vaccination was not available. He also said that vaccination might not be possible for a decade.
The NFMG Group and Compassion in World Farming had arranged for two leading world scientists in FMD, Dr Simon Barteling and Dr Paul Sutmoller to present evidence to the Inquiry. Both scientists have widespread experience in controlling FMD throughout the world and in the use of vaccination to assist control. As yet the Inquiry has not heard any evidence from either of them. full press release
Nov 5

Animal health bill a licence for state incompetence
Scotland on Sunday

(warmwell note: Magnus Linklater, on Scotland's decision to distance itself firmly from the Animal Health Amendment Bill, points out that the bill deprives all of the legal right to challenge the killing of their animals)
ROSS Finnie, the Minister for rural affairs, is generally considered to have come well out of the foot and mouth disaster. He is commended for moving more rapidly to combat the disease, for bringing in the army early enough to stop its spread, and of course for having, thus far, stamped it out in Scotland. I am not myself an enthusiastic Finnie supporter, because I regarded the policy of slaughtering healthy animals as brutal and unnecessary. But I am prepared to give him the benefit of doubt on two conditions: that he resists the appalling bill currently proposed at Westminster which is being introduced under the Orwellian title, the Animal Health (Amendment) Bill. And that he takes action to reverse the scandalous decline of Scottish veterinary science in Scotland.

First things first: the Animal Health Bill is an outrage. It gives the government the right to slaughter any animal, including not only cows and sheep, but family pets, horses, ponies, and even creatures housed in zoos, if, in its view, they "pose a risk of spreading disease". This means that if there is another foot and mouth scare, farmers or householders will be deprived of the legal right to challenge the killing of their animals. It is a savage and draconian piece of legislation, far worse in its implications than the absurd Dangerous Dogs Act of 1991, which was rushed through after the scare over pit-bull terriers, and was found to be unworkable. ...(full article)
Nov 4, posted Nov 5

Labour MP's bill books an audience with President Blair
Guardian


Nicholas Watt,
.........."Instead of a healthy balance we have an executive, the UK presidency, which stands like an 800lb gorilla alongside a wizened legislature and judiciary," Mr Allen writes in a book published this week: Time to be Honest about the UK Presidency. ............. "The UK has in effect a presidency," he argues. "We should recognise it. We should welcome it. We should democratically control it." Downing Street officials, who insist publicly that they are observing the constitutional convention that the prime minister first among equals, will privately recognise many of Mr Allen's claims. Jonathan Powell, Mr Blair's chief of staff, reportedly said in private last year that he wanted to create a "Bonapartist" system in which Downing Street controlled every element of government. This runs against the constitutional convention that cabinet ministers are accountable to par liament for their departments. Mr Allen says that for 50 years successive prime ministers have ignored the conventions as they amassed more powers. "The blanket of powers of the UK presidency inadvertently suffocates initiative at every lower level," he says. ...Calling on the prime minister to "come out" and admit he has become a president, Mr Allen outlines powers which outstrip those held by President Bush. "A whole panoply of so-called royal prerogative powers are reserved to the prime minister ... [which] includes the making of treaties, and the ability to go to war," he writes. "Of course, in true British style, all this power is concealed by acres of window dressing, privy councils, royal audiences, parliamentary rituals, the facades of ancient buildings and public school accents. "While we in the UK would rather chatter about the cut and colour of the camouflage, behind it the UK president has power that would make Stalin blush." As a first step to changing the system, Mr Allen recommends a novel way to liven up the "ritualised, partisan, perfunctory questioning" of ministers in parliament. "Why close our minds to an MP or an Andrew Marr figure using the currently empty chamber each morning with a roving mike getting MPs' first-hand evidence live on TV on key constituency problems of the day, or a semi-circular chamber, or guest witnesses addressing the House - anything to get the House to speak to and for the electors and their concerns," he writes.
Nov 5

Farmers 'justified' in resisting cull
Letters to the Times


FROM MRS H. L. GOOD
Sir, Amendments to the Animal Health Act would give the Government powers to order the slaughter of any or all animals (this is not confined to farm animals) when and where it chose, and to prevent owners from resisting a culling order (report, October 31). The implication is that such resistance has contributed to the spread of foot-and-mouth. In fact, of the scores of owners who have resisted the culling of their livestock, only one, to my knowledge, was subsequently found to have animals that were infected.
It would appear that this is an attempt by the Government to airbrush out its own culpability with regard to the spread of foot-and-mouth and the economic consequences of its disastrous decisions.
I remain etc, H. L. GOOD, 21 North End, Meldreth, Royston, Hertfordshire SG8 6NR. fmdwatch@hotmail.com November 1.
From Mr James Rider
Sir, Only 18 to 25 per cent of farms where animals were slaughtered under the contiguous cull had foot-and-mouth. This shows that at least three out of four slaughter teams were wasting their time and that farmers who resisted the cull were almost invariably right to do so.
Far from prolonging FMD these people actually saved the Government money.
Yours faithfully, JAMES RIDER, East Penrest Farm, Lezant, Launceston, Cornwall PL15 9NR. jrider@lineone.net
From Mr Charlie Munn
Sir, FMD was virtually unknown in this country for almost 30 years, but now that it may be endemic, it is the farmers who have to suffer further controls. In a few short months the Government has managed to alienate the whole industry and appears to be about to miss another opportunity to show that it has any practical interest in the future of farming.
Yours faithfully, CHARLIE MUNN, Hodore Farm, Hartfield, East Sussex TN7 4AR.
Nov 5

Say no to WTO talks: farmers body tells Govt
South Nexus.com

(warmwell note: articles such as this should be borne in mind when one hears the bland assurances of our politicians, Mrs Beckett in particular, that a global economy benefits the poorer nations. It does nothing of the kind. it benefits the greedy multi-nationals and the banks.) NEW DELHI, Nov 04: National Coordination Committee of Farmers Movement said that the Government should say, a "firm no" to another round of talks of World Trade Organisation at Doha as it "is not in the interest of the Indian farmers." The global trade regulatory body "favours the developed nations and spells doom for developing countries like India as most of the agreements are anti-farmer," Bharatiya Kisan Union president Chaudhury Mahendra Singh Tikait said. "Why does this Government love foreigners and hate Indians?" Tikait questioned. M D Najunda Swamy, the president of Karnataka Rajya Rayat Sangh -- a constituent of NCCFM, said, "besides opposing the new round of talks at Doha, the Government should use its voting rights in the WTO to block any new issues coming into the agenda." "India should also demand a thorough review of the existing WTO agreements and strive to replace this oppressive and unfair trade system with a new, socially just and sustainable trading framework," Swamy said. On the controversy surrounding the genetically modified Bt cotton, Swamy said, it "was sown on 10,000 hectares without the knowledge of the Government. The farmers as well as Gujarat Government were kept in the dark. .....," Swamy said.
Nov 5

Foot and mouth scourge may be over
Sunday Times

THE foot and mouth outbreak which saw 4m animals culled in Britain may be over. Scientists are optimistic that the virus has been contained, although more time is needed to find out if it has been eradicated. One expert said: "With every day without a new confirmed case we are more confident." The last confirmed case of the disease was on September 30 at a farm in Cumbria.
(warmwell note: the "scourge" was not the disease itself but the measures put in place to fight it. Farmers are still shackled by the movement restrictions. These are resulting in the pointless and wasteful deaths of thousands more animals. If the Animal Health Amendment bill is passed, the government will have given itself powers never before dreamt of to destroy animals at will whether or not they have been in contact with diseases. Owners will have no rights left to object and will be forced to cooperate. The bill as read on Oct 30. Few MPs even realised.)

King of the corn dolly
Western Daily Press

AS a seven-year-old boy, David Packwood was captivated by a small corn dolly made by an old man in a field. But with competition from TV and computer games, it takes more than a small cleverly-woven bunch of straw to capture the imagination of today's youth. So to ensure the survival of the ancient art, the 64-year-old master craftsman decided to think big. He creates 6ft tall straw sculptures of knights and maidens to grab the attention of young people and encourage them to take up the dying art. ............. David now travels around schools teaching children the art of making straw sculptures in the hope that some of the pupils will continue to practise until, like him, they can plait five straws in 50 different ways with their eyes shut. He says the large figures are in keeping with the ancient tradition because dolly means image or idol and he picks subjects to reflect this.
He also hope foot-and-mouth disease will lead to a resurgence in an art that was virtually finished off in the late 1950s when farmers started planting shorter straw needed for combine harvesters. "I have to give farmers the seed to grow longer straw I need but I've been told it's set to make a comeback after foot-and-mouth," he explained. "People are starting to say that the older varieties are better at keeping the farmyard clean and offer greater protection from the disease and I've heard people are starting to grow them again. " lSome of David's work is currently on show at the heritage centre in Ross-on-Wye.
Nov 5

Farmer's Outrage over New Powers
Shropshire Star

A livestock owner on the Shropshire Powys border accused the government of declaring war on farmers with its nproposed powers to slaughter animals against owners' wishes in future disease outbreaks.
Mr Roy Miller who farms sheep and cattle near Welshpool said he was outraged by the powers that he believed would take away the last safety net farmers have to protect their animals. He claimed that the Welshpool area would have become a wasteland if DEFRA had wielded such powers this year. .....
The government could force owners of sheep that are not resistant to scrapie, a disease harmless to humans, to slaughter or castrate them because a voluntary scheme to breed out the disease would be too slow. Eliott Morley, the animal health minister, claimed the powers were necessary because legal challenges to the contiguous cull policy had handicapped the fight against foot and mouth. But Mr Miller challenged him to find one example in Wales where resistance has resulted in the disease being spread. He said it was the government, not farmers, that allowed the disease to get out of control.
the bill will provide powers to kill any animals the minister thinks should be slaughtered with a view to preventing the spread of any disease - even if they are healthy annd have had no contact with infected animals.
Nov 3, posted Nov 4

Field day for the animal killers
Sunday Times

The idiot National Farmers' Union endorses the government's proposed Animal Health Act amendments that will give ministry agents the power to destroy cows, sheep, pigs, alpacas, cats, dogs, horses, hamsters and goldfish without judicial review.
This vindictive legislation, to put beyond challenge the power of the government to kill anyone's animal, has been rushed into parliament without waiting for reports from any of the three foot-and-mouth inquiries established by the government.
Ministers now allege, with the NFU, that animal owners who resisted the cull helped spread the disease. Where is the evidence? There is plenty of evidence that the bio-sanitary practices of the government's own agents spread the disease - but not that it was spread by people trying to protect their healthy animals from the ministry of death.
If the government is seeking ex post facto to legalise its contiguous cull policy, it can only be to make the next big cull a lot easier - without citizens seeking redress at law.
The NFU, which is as close to the new Defra as it was to the old Maff, is not the only organisation to have emerged disgraced by foot and mouth. Vets cravenly presided as ministry slaughtermen, accompanied by soldiers and armed police, took out pet goats. As government agents on quad bikes chased cows, the hypocritical RSPCA campaigned to ban hunting. I will never give them another penny.
The police ought to protect our freedoms. Instead, the senior cadre sent officers to superintend gross violations of human and animal rights. The army did its best to ameliorate the distress by organising matters more efficiently. ............
(full article)
Nov 4

After the slaughter comes the Bill to make it legal
Sunday Telegraph

Christopher Booker's Notebook
THE most startling aspect of the Animal Health Bill, which no one seems to have noticed, is that it confirms that the Government acted illegally during the foot and mouth crisis in ordering millions of healthy animals to be destroyed.
The Bill, which the Government hopes to rush into law by early next year, tacitly recognises that there was no legal power to order the destruction of these animals under the "contiguous cull".
The Bill contains two astonishing features. The first is that it grants powers more arbitrary and draconian than state officials have ever been given in Britain before. In the name of eliminating foot and mouth or any other disease, they are given right of entry to any premises, to kill any animal they wish, including cats and dogs.
Animal owners are deprived of any legal right to question or challenge such decisions. Indeed, they can be ordered by officials, on pain of prosecution, to provide assistance in any way that the officials want; so that, on paper, even refusing to make tea for an official could be deemed a criminal offence .
The Bill's other remarkable feature is that it confirms that when, in March, the former Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Maff) launched its contiguous cull scheme, under which more than three million animals were killed simply because they were on farms within "three kilometres" of an infected premises, it did not have the legal power to do so.
The Animal Health Act 1981 clearly states that officials can kill animals only where there is proof that they are either diseased or have been exposed to infection. EU law, under directive 85/511, is even stricter, ruling that animals can be culled only when already infected.
It was these laws which Maff deliberately ignored in ordering its contiguous cull, supported by Professor Roy Anderson's Imperial College computer model. Indeed, whenever animal owners challenged the legality of the contiguous cull, Maff found some way to back down.
An Exeter solicitor, Alayne Addie, confirmed last week that, when she challenged Maff on more than 200 occasions, it was clear that the last thing the ministry wanted was to have its policy tested in court. When the case of Grunty, the film-star pig, did come before the High Court in June, Mr Justice Harrison ruled that the ministry had no power to order a blanket slaughter policy. Each case must be assessed individually.
It is precisely this wholesale breaching of the law that the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is now seeking to circumvent, by granting its officials the powers which until now the law has not given them.
This was justified last week by the Defra minister Elliott Morley, who outraged lawyers, farmers and vets by claiming as "a fact" that attempts to challenge the legality of the cull had helped prolong the epidemic. Miss Addie points out that in only one of the 200 cases she fought did the animals subsequently develop the disease. Mr Morley has been challenged to produce a single piece of evidence to support his claim.
Not the least controversial aspect of Mr Morley's new law (available via www.warmwell. com; see story below) is that it proposes to give police-state powers to the very officials who have so conspicuously abused the powers that they already have over the past seven months. Miss Addie argues that, by denying animal owners any right of appeal, the Bill is in clear breach of the Human Rights Act.
Despite the storm of protest it is arousing, Mr Morley will have little problem getting it nodded through by MPs. But since it was not announced in either the Labour manifesto or the Queen's Speech, the Lords are entitled to throw it out. Opponents now look to an all-party alliance of peers to do so.
Copies of my Not the Foot and Mouth Report are available from newsagents, or from Private Eye on 020 7228 6457.
Nov 4

Download on the lowdown on farm crisis
Sunday Telegraph


THE foot and mouth epidemic was the first national crisis in which, in terms of circulating a mass of vital information, a key part has been played by the internet. Several regular websites proved useful, but for thousands trying to follow this crisis, easily the most valuable, by posting a complete daily press summary, scientific and veterinary papers and all kinds of other data, has been www.warmwell.com.
Only last week, as a regular visitor, did I discover the extraordinary fact that this highly professional site was run single-handedly by an English teacher living in France. A year ago Mary Critchley moved with her laptop and two dogs to a farmhouse north of Bordeaux, to teach local people English.
She set up a chatty website on www.englishin france.com, to keep friends back home in touch with her daily doings. In April, she was so horrified by the vain battle of a farmer friend in Scotland to save his pedigree sheep from destruction that she decided to switch attention to the foot and mouth crisis, to provide reliable information on what was happening.
Mrs Critchley fast became familiar with all the key issues the Government wished to suppress, from the scientific case for vaccination to the illegality of the contiguous cull. Spending many hours a day with her laptop, next to a French vineyard 400 miles from Britain, she was soon keeping Devon farmers, Cumbrian vets, even journalists in Somerset, au fait with all that was happening.
Not surprisingly, warmwell.com (derived, Mary confesses, from "warm welcome") was last week dominated by the wave of informed outrage greeting the Government's Animal Health Bill (see main story). She hopes to keep her site open "as long as this awful battle continues".......
Nov 4

Food supply may be terror target Nation taking steps to guard agriculture from attack
USA today


By Anita Manning As federal authorities tighten security at airports and investigate anthrax cases in the eastern USA, scientists and politicians are growing increasingly worried about another possible target for terrorists: the food supply. An attack that disrupts agriculture could be economically devastating and widespread, says Craig Smith, an infectious-disease specialist at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital in Albany, Ga. ''We're talking about geopolitical ramifications,'' says Smith, who is part of a working group on bioterrorism with the Infectious Disease Society of America (IDSA). ''We have an open society and open access to scientific information,'' he says. The Department of Agriculture stepped up disease surveillance efforts and restrictions on imports in the wake of outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease and mad cow disease in the United Kingdom, but ''we know that whenever outbreaks occur around the world, terrorists send their scientists to obtain samples,'' he says. ''You can't be paranoid, but we have to be cautious.'' ....... Speaking Sunday at an IDSA meeting in San Francisco, he said new research ''will also surely address some of the other critical public health and infectious-disease vulnerabilities on our planet.'' To illustrate that point, he showed a slide of a steaming mountain of British cattle that had been destroyed to stem the spread of foot-and-mouth disease in last summer's epidemic. ''We can do better than this in treating a foot-and-mouth disease outbreak,'' Inglesby said. ''We can have a vaccine that we can use widely that doesn't disrupt economic consequences of the meat supply.'' Scientists are at work on that, says USDA spokesman Kevin Herglotz. ''We have active research as it relates to vaccinations for foot-and-mouth disease, as well as technology that could better detect animal diseases,'' he says. ''We need to make sure that, particularly in the wake of Sept. 11, that we invest appropriately in that kind of research and science in our laboratory systems, and a lot of the senators have called for taking a closer look at these kinds of things.''.......
Nov 4

Foot and mouth vets 'should have more local power'
Telegraph


By Sandra Barwick (Filed: 03/11/2001) CENTRALISED control of the foot and mouth epidemic by Government "caused a lot of trouble" and vets needed more local authority, according to the chairman of the Royal Society inquiry. He also said that a radically different approach to foot and mouth to the current policy of slaughter, including vaccination, might not be possible for a decade. At a meeting of the inquiry in Cumbria to hear opinions from farmers, Sir Brian Follett, a biologist, was told that vets were often unable to make decisions on slaughter without clearance from London, delaying culls for up to five days. Sir Brian said: "National control caused a lot of trouble. The chief veterinary officer in a region should have been able to make a decision without having to go to London." He dismissed the prospect of protecting British livestock through vaccination, saying vaccination was not available. There was a need to find a vaccine "that really works". Britain could not find the scientific solutions to make a radical change in policy in isolation. EU and international backing would be needed. He said: "If anything, all the evidence points that we should continue with the present approach but put in place mechanisms to make it much more efficient. We have to be able to diagnose animals faster and make decisions much quicker. "In that way we can curtail the epidemic in a much shorter period of time. It got out of control in the present outbreak." Alan Richardson, a vet who had experience in the 1968 outbreak and who came out of retirement to work in Cumbria, has submitted a report of his experiences to the inquiry. He said yesterday that he had battled with the centralised control of the epidemic, based at the then Ministry of Agriculture in London. "You couldn't get a decision out of anyone. A telephonist would take a message and the chit would wait in an in-tray. "In 1969 I was the first man in the Macclesfield centre. I was the equivalent of an army captain. It was tightly run locally. You decided, valued, slaughtered and buried the same day. You can't do that if everything has to be decided in London."
(warmwell note: see Mr Richardson's paper on warmwell) Peter Jinman, vice-president of the British Veterinary Association, said that in future government should tackle epidemics "in partnership" with local veterinary expertise.
Nov 3

Oppose the Animal Health Bill
Petition on line

View Current Signatures - Sign the Petition
To: All Westminster MPs
The Countryside Action Network and the animal owners who have put their names to this petition strongly oppose the Animal Health Bill, which provides additional powers to Ministers to order the slaughter of animals and to allow Ministers to add to the schedule of diseases for which compulsory slaughter of animals can be ordered.
In light of the very unpleasant experiences inflicted upon farmers and smallholders during the Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak, which resulted in millions of healthy animals being slaughtered, and thousands being slaughtered 'by mistake', we believe that giving additional powers to Ministers, without reference to Parliament, is not warranted.
Sincerely, The Undersigned
Nov 3

You've let the supermarkets off the hook . . .
Western Daily Press

FARMERS have attacked as "purely cosmetic" a new code of practice aimed at reining in the big four supermarkets. The long-awaited document, published this week, governs the relationship between supermarkets and their suppliers. It was ordered after the Competition Commission concluded that the big chains operated in ways that "distorted" a fair market. The code, drawn up by the Office of Fair Trading, is split into eight parts and covers areas such as prices and payments, compensation, consumer complaints and third party dealings. It also includes setting up an independent mediator to resolve possible breaches of the code. The big four supermarkets, Asda, Safeway, Sainsbury's and Tesco, will be required to put terms of business in writing to ensure they do not use their power to force suppliers into unfair contracts. They will be also be expected to give reasonable notice before seeking retrospective price cuts and payments for lower profits than expected.
The document is legally binding but West producers dismissed it yesterday as "superficial". Farmers' leaders said it "lacked the guts" needed to redress the balance.
Robert Persey, who farmed 15,000 pigs for 35 years in Collumpton, Devon, before his business folded earlier this year, said: "This is like trying to rein in supermarkets with a piece of thread. "The code will do nothing, the power of the supermarkets is so great. "This is purely cosmetic and will have no affect whatsoever. Supermarkets are a power that is without control."
Maurice Vellacott, who has a cow and sheep farm at North Molton on the Somerset-Devon boarder was similarly unimpressed. He said: "Somebody is paying lip-service for a demand for something radical to happen. "Supermarkets should realise what the cost of production is and not exploit us." Suppliers were particularly annoyed that concerns voiced earlier this year, when they studied a draft version of the code, had apparently been ignored. The National Farmers Union said the new code would "leave farmers and growers bitter and angry"... ...... Supermarkets with at least an eight per cent share of the market will be bound by the code.
Nov 3

Farm virus puts dogs on the dole
Evening Chronicle


Sheep dogs are being abandoned in droves because foot and mouth has taken away their jobs. The RSPCA says it has been inundated with calls from desperate farmers who can no longer afford to look after their dogs.
Many of the working animals have been rendered redundant because fields once full of livestock are now deserted. Other farms have closed down, leaving the dogs with no place to go.
Today the RSPCA in Northumberland launched a campaign to rehouse homeless border collies. Spokesman Stephen Kirkup said: "We have all heard of farms closing and livestock slaughtered but this is another hidden cost of foot and mouth.
"Collies are just not needed in some parts of Northumberland and we now have a 200 per cent rise in the number of homeless dogs. "They are difficult to rehouse with ordinary families because they need special care. We haven't been able to go to other farms to offer them because of the risk of spreading infection." In many cases the collies were born before the first outbreak of foot and mouth in Northumberland last March.
Most of the dogs are up to ten months old and are considered by some farmers to be too old to properly train now........
Nov 3

CLASH OF VIEWS ON FARM SUBSIDIES
Dundee Courier

By Andrew Arbuckle, farming editor
THE PRESENT high level of support given to farmers within the UK was not only unsustainable in the long term but it also made farmers within the EU uncompetitive, farmers have been warned.
"If you continue (with the CAP) you will end up in a system where you will be unable to compete and you will lose touch with the views of consumers," Professor Donald Macrae, told farmers at a conference in Fife this week.
An advocate of freeing up the market and reducing dependency on subsidies, Professor Macrae said that the £482 million given in direct support to Scottish agriculture could be increased to £766 million as the real cost of subsidising agriculture. This was, he said, now some 3.3 times greater than the total income for Scottish agriculture and meant that every farming business in Scotland was receiving an average of £40,000 a year. The unsustainability of this position was further underlined in his eyes by the increased levels of borrowing which Scottish agriculture had resorted to in the past five years when farm income figures plummeted downward. Clearing bank debt has now risen to over £1200 million, or about £50,000 per farm unit. Professor Macrae, who is a senior economist with Lloyds TSB and who also claimed that he had several hundred years of farming in his own family tree, said that he was not advocating a quick shift to a New Zealand type of farming where levels of Government support are very small.
But, he said, the main beneficiaries of the present support system were the companies operating in supplying farming with some of its basic requirements, such as feedstuffs and fertilisers. He pointed out that input costs rose as rapidly as returns when the UK joined the Common Market, and when support was removed from NZ agriculture, then costs of fertilisers and animal medicines fell as quickly as the prices given for produce.
But, Professor Macrae's gloomy prognostications were too much for John Cameron, who led the National Farmers' Union of Scotland in the early years of this country's membership of the EU. As a former chairman of the railways in Scotland, Mr Cameron, said that the subsidies given to maintaining rural railways in this country were far higher than those given to the whole of agriculture. Mr Cameron added that while he believed there should be some shift in emphasis on how support was provided, the basic tenet remained that farm subsidies provided the best method of putting money into the rural economy. ....
Nov 3

Loch Katrine sheep farming to end
Glasgow Herald

JAMES FREEMAN
SHEEP will disappear from the hills around Loch Katrine because of economic failure and the need to safeguard the purity of Glasgow's water supply. West of Scotland Water is to stop sheep farming at the loch and at Afton, in Ayrshire. The Loch Katrine operation is one of the biggest sheep farms in Scotland at more than 20,000 acres, with 8000 sheep looked after by five full-time shepherds. Craigdarroch Farm at Afton has 800 sheep tended by one shepherd. .......The area has been a sheep farm since the second world war but in recent times its marginality was propelled into loss making by foot-and-mouth disease. Mr Cornish said: "We need to demonstrate to our customers that we are as cost-efficient as possible and minimise the degree by which charges have to increase. Non-core business operations, especially those which are loss-making, require serious reassessment." A second reason for selling its flocks was to minimise risk of contamination of the water supply from animal faeces. This follows the outbreak of stomach illness caused by the bacterium cryptosporidium in Glasgow last spring. Although no conclusive evidence identified the source, Greater Glasgow Health Board's scientists concluded the organism responsible was waterborne......
Nov 3

Scrapie plan threatens rare breeds
Farmers Weekly

By Alistair Driver
SOME of Britain's rarest sheep breeds could be wiped out by proposals to cull or castrate sheep believed to be susceptible to scrapie. Ministers face growing calls to protect certain rare breeds following the publication of the Animal Health Bill. The bill would give the government powers to slaughter, castrate or sterilise sheep which do not have scrapie-resistant genes. The aim is to force farmers to help eradicate the BSE-type disease. But the National Sheep Association claims unique genes that could bring benefits will be lost if all susceptible sheep are culled. The Rare Breeds Survival Trust said rare breeds of sheep, which include Shetlands, Soays and Castlemilk Moorits, are generally not resistant. The trust is helping to organise a special government-funded genotyping programme for rare breeds to gauge the extent of the problem. Jeremy Roberts, chairman of the Castlemilk Moorit Breed Society, said: "If the scheme is made compulsory our breed will disappear." The sheep should be exempted because there are so few of them they are insignificant in terms of disease transmission. Countryside minister Elliot Morley said he would offer some hope to breeds. "There is going to be some flexibility. "We will take into account the need to protect rare specialist breeds." (warmwell note: it's not like the Farmers Weekly to miss the point like this. The bill is illogical and an affront to civil liberties - and its powers go way beyond what is implied in this article. There is no suggestion that cattle should be castrated or culled if they are not resistant to BSE. Scrapie in sheep is not harmful to humans. Scrapie cannot be proved to have any link with BSE - which in turn cannot be proved to cause CJD - yet the bill is hoping to ride on the current whipped up fears about all thse things. All associations that care about sheepfarming, or about the rights of the owners of all animals - including pets - to protect them, should be up in arms about this malevolent bill - not feebly begging for exemptions. )
Nov 2

Fears after new suspected foot-and-mouth case
Ananova

Tests are being carried out on a dairy cow sparking fears foot-and-mouth disease may have reappeared in the country for the first time in more than a month. Farmers are anxiously awaiting the results of the test, a National Farmers' Union spokesman said. The tests are being carried out at the government laboratory in Pirbright, Surrey, after the symptoms similar to those of foot-and-mouth disease were discovered in a cow at a farm near Rookhope, County Durham. The farm stands on the edge of the Blue Box restriction zone which was set up to stop the spread of disease from the virus hotspot around Hexham and Allendale in Northumberland. The animal was slaughtered as a precautionary measure and a sample taken for testing. A positive test for the disease would be confirmed later today, while a negative result would take longer to confirm. The Defra spokesman said today: "Following a report from a farmer in the Blue Box in County Durham, Defra vets have gone out to examine his stock. "One cow showed a lesion from which foot-and-mouth could not be eliminated." National Farmers' Union regional spokesman Rob Simpson said: "Farmers are waiting with trepidation for the results. If there are no results today it will be a good sign because it is less likely they will be positive. We will all be holding our breath." The last case confirmed in County Durham was on September 4, while the last in the national case was confirmed in Appleby, Cumbria on September 30.
Nov 2

Farmers fighting for the future
Scotsman.com

THERE is no sign of an exodus of Borders farmers from the agricultural industry after the foot-and-mouth crisis which affected more than 100 local farm-based businesses. Two farm business advisers commissioned by Scottish Enterprise Borders to help devastated farmers draw up recovery plans say the vast majority of people directly or indirectly hit by slaughter policies and livestock restrictions are determined to either start again or diversify. The Borders initiative in providing a special advice service is being seen as a pilot for the rest of Scotland, said Hugh Tasker, a Selkirk veterinary surgeon who chairs the Borders LEC. He added: "The agricultural industry accounts for 4,000 jobs with over 1,500 agricultural businesses in this area. These generate about £176 million annually for the local economy." Such an important industry must get the chance to flourish in the aftermath of foot-and-mouth. He said: "The Scottish executive has asked us, working in partnership with other organisations, to pilot a project with the rural development department which will eventually be disseminated to the rest of Scotland." The Borders LEC is paying for the two advisers to undertake audits on individual farms. A key objective is to identify possible diversification opportunities for farmers struggling to keep businesses going. A programme worked out by the two experts will include workshops on diversification, financial management, and technical discussion groups. There will be opportunities for director training specifically tailored to meet the needs of farm businesses. A conference for Borders farmers will be held in January 2002 to consider the industry's future requirements.
Nov 2

What foot and mouth can teach Blair about war
Telegraph

By Alice Thomson
...I asked our local farmer what had happened. "We're the last farm to have tested positive for foot and mouth," he said. "They came while I was away on holiday and shot all my sheep. Now they think it was a false alarm but it's too late. They're dead. Everyone's forgotten about our war."
In some ways the war against foot and mouth and the war against terrorism couldn't be more different. ..... One caused panic. In the foot and mouth crisis, supermarkets ran out of meat, Cheltenham was cancelled and Chinese stir fries were shunned. There were rumours that the disease could be carried 100 miles on the wind; the tourism industry lost £10 billion. In the war against terrorism, most people in Britain have remained calm despite the men in white suits and a couple of knock-kneed cricketers. Tony Blair treated them differently, too. He has called both disasters "devastating" and "grave". But over foot and mouth he vacillated for weeks, refusing to take responsibility and insisting there was no crisis. He put his junior, Nick Brown, in charge but gave him little more than a hessian sack to beat the virus.......Both times, the Prime Minister has tried to bypass Parliament. Over foot and mouth, Mr Brown insisted it was a waste of time to come to Westminster to tell MPs how the battle was going. Mr Blair still doesn't trust his MPs to have a proper debate or vote on the war.
In both cases, the Government's spin squadrons have floundered on the PR front. People felt sorry for farmers when they saw the medieval scenes of pyres burning in the countryside; now many feel wretched watching Afghanistan being bombed even further back into the Middle Ages. (see full article)

Rural Fears
Letter to the Telegraph

Re: Rural fears Date: 2 November 2001
SIR - The Government's plans to slaughter animals against the wishes of their owners (report, Nov. 1) are yet another attempt to fend off growing calls for a public inquiry into the foot and mouth epidemic. Elliot Morley, the animal health minister, once more seeks to blame farmers, who now have more cause than ever to doubt scientific tests that could result in slaughter of flocks and herds built up over a lifetime, with no appeal. The minister might look at governmental concern about the election and lack of concern about foot and mouth in the early weeks of the outbreak, and at the Prime Minister's early abandonment of personal control when losing the battle. Mr Morley should also consider his own position regarding attempts to stifle assistance from qualified hunt staff early in the slaughter. Country people to whom I talk fear a government-inspired ploy to finish the entire livestock industry.
Edward Hart, Ludlow, Shrops
Nov 2

Telegraph farm wife's tale becomes a book
Telegraph

By Richard Savill (Filed: 02/11/2001)
AT the start of the foot and mouth crisis, The Telegraph asked Sally Leaney to write a diary for a week on how life with her husband and children on a West Country farm had altered. Her accounts proved so popular that they continued, drawing hundreds of letters from readers. Yesterday a book of her diaries - and some of those responses - was published. "I never expected this. It only started as a personal family diary," said Mrs Leaney, who was at the launch with her husband, Duncan, and children, Alice, 13, and Sam, 10. Mrs Leaney, whose farm at Corfe, near Taunton, Somerset, escaped the disease, hoped the book would serve as a "living memory" of the epidemic. Children in India, vets involved in the 1967 outbreak, a 95-year-old nun and farmers who lost animals were among those who made contact. One eight-year-old wrote to Sam and Alice saying: "We have a foot dip at school, have you? I am very scared . . ."..... Mrs Leaney said: "There were so many horrific images; charred legs sticking out of burning pyres. People needed to see the passion that was involved, and the pain and the cost. That is what I tried to convey." The Telegraph Diary of a Farming Wife by Sally Leaney (Merton Priory Press) is available for £9.95, post free in the UK. To order, call Telegraph Books Direct on 0870 155 7222.
Hundreds of rural businesses are uniting to mount legal actions against the Government over its handling of the foot and mouth crisis. The UK Rural Business Campaign claims that the Government illegally closed roads, was negligent in its advice to tourists and had contravened the Human Rights Act.
Nov 2

'Needless delay' in BSE sheep test
BBC

There are still concerns over whether BSE is in sheep. Scientists could have discovered whether BSE is in the national sheep flock several years ago, according to one of the government's senior advisers on the disease. The government's Veterinary Laboratory Agency is set to announce that it has developed a fast biochemical test for detecting BSE in sheep. But Professor John Collinge told the BBC the test could have been developed several years ago had the VLA devoted more resources to the project and sought outside expertise. The VLA says more research is required to determine whether it can distinguish BSE-like agents from all forms of scrapie but scientists hope to have a working test within months. But Professor Collinge says he developed the basis of the test for the VLA four years ago. The move comes in the wake of a bungled four-year study into whether BSE was in sheep, which was found to be mistakenly studying cow brains. Initial findings that one per cent of sheep might have BSE were explained when last minute tests showed that the brains being tested were in fact those of cows. Critics are appalled that after a four-year-study, the government is still no closer to answering concerns that BSE could have been in sheep for some time and mistaken for scrapie. Rural Affairs Secretary Margaret Beckett has fended off criticism that she tried to "bury" the original bungled project. The scientist at the centre of the study has blamed the VLA for testing the wrong samples. But Mrs Beckett says the government still has no reason to be embarrassed.
(warmwell note: Mrs Beckett may possibly be deluding herself here - but no one else. )
Nov 2

NEW LEGISLATION PRE-EMPTS ALL FMD INQUIRIES
Press Release from National Foot and Mouth Group

Without waiting for the evidence or findings of any of the 3 Inquiries into FMD the Government has announced new legislation to reduce even further the appeals against the culling of healthy animals. Calling on the Government to justify this move, the National Foot and Mouth Group are asking the Government to produce evidence to substantiate its claim that farmers appealing against the contiguous cull caused the disease to spread. The experience of the Group in the Forest of Dean was that none of the 34 Contiguous culls proved positive when blood tested. Not one of the 34 farms had any animals that had been exposed to Foot & Mouth or contracted the disease. (18 farms were culled out before the Group's protests stopped the cull - all were negative when tested after slaughter - Elliot Morley eventally agreed to blood test the rest - they too were all negative.) .....
Nov 1

Disease bill reeks of 'jackboot tactics'
Farmers Weekly

By Adrienne Francis
THE unveiling of the government's Animal Health Bill has provoked much discussion throughout the national papers.
New measures will force farmers to comply with ministerial orders to slaughter their livestock to fast track-control of future disease epidemics. The Guardian describes the new laws as further evidence of government, "tightening the screw," against agriculture. In the paper, Devon pedigree cattle farmer Peter Cave, accuses the government of indulging in "jackboot tactics". He is quoted as saying:"This smacks of Nazi law, malicious and spiteful - you bloody well behave or we'll get you."
Lawyers have also questioned whether the legality of the new measures. Tim Russ, a partner in a Taunton practice, told the paper arbitrary culling without an appeals procedure could breach European Union law.
The Daily Telegraph labels the changes as, "draconian powers, to slaughter animals against the wishes of owners in future outbreaks of disease." The Financial Times say the new "legislation is designed to strengthen ministers' hand during the current crisis." Farmers' leaders have backed the proposals, but warned that government has to improve its communication with farmers, it says. (warmwell note: WHY have "farmers' leaders" backed this bill? It doesn't make sense voluntarily to give up one's right of appeal. These powers to grab property, once seized, would not be lightly relinquished. Why is the NFU's unelected executive hand in glove with the government over this issue? Real farmers are most certainly not.) The paper reports Malcolm Bruce, Liberal Democrat agriculture spokesman as saying: "We need consultation, not confrontation." The Times says ministers have been frustrated by delays and stalling tactics employed by some farmers to prevent the slaughter of their animals. But it concludes that the decision will "penalise farmers financially." Richard Burge, chief executive of the Countryside Alliance, told the paper that the proposals are "half-baked and evasive." There was no evidence that farmers had exacerbated the outbreak by their resistance to the slaughter of livestock, he said. Mr Burge cited inquiries by the National Audit Office and Devon County Council in his defence of farmers.
Nov 1

Government plans tough powers for any fresh animal epidemic
Telegraph

By Sandra Barwick DRACONIAN powers to slaughter animals against the wishes of owners in future outbreaks of disease, and to kill scrapie-susceptible sheep even if BSE is never found in the national flock, are being taken by the Government. Legislation, which is expected to become law in the New Year, would prevent farmers, owners of animal refuges and pets mounting legal challenges to contiguous culls as happened this year. It will also enable the Government to force owners of sheep which are not resistant to scrapie, a disease harmless to humans, to slaughter or castrate them because a voluntary scheme to breed out the disease would be too slow. Elliot Morley, the animal health minister, said the powers were necessary because legal challenges to the contiguous cull policy had handicapped the fight against foot and mouth. The Government had fought more than 100 court cases of owners opposed to slaughter, and "that in many cases allowed the disease to spread" he said. He had been told that in around 20 of those cases animals had proved to be infected, he said. (warmwell note: had he? Well none of them was in Wales. We'd be very interested to know which cases "PROVED TO BE INFECTED". Mr Morley may perhaps have been told of the Hodgson family where "positive" blood tests caused them to drop their case, resulting in their liability for costs and the distressing slaughter of their disabled son's pet goats . His pet pig, also killed along with the unfortunate pet goats, had lived and slept alongside these "infected" anmals without any ill effects for months.) "We make no apology for taking these powers."
But Peter Ainsworth, the Shadow Secretary for Environment, said the proposed powers would "set alarm bells ringing across the countryside". The results of the Devon Inquiry showed "only too clearly that Defra [Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs] ministers and officials cannot be trusted to take rational or informed decisions during an epidemic," he said. ....The Bill will provide powers to kill "any animals the Minister thinks should be slaughtered with a view to preventing the spread of foot-and-mouth disease', even if they are healthy and have had no contact with affected animals.
Nov 1

Vaccination for foot and mouth
Letter in The Scottish Farmer

........He also did not acknowledge that offers from abroad and indeed from within the UK to help were refused by the Government authorities. The Government agencies, although they were informed some years before the UK epidemic (and must have themselves been aware) thatthe UK was a sitting duck for foot-and-mouth disease, apparently did nothing and refused all help to get such diagnostic tests (or indeed the "new" vaccines) validated for use in this country or indeed the EC.The scientific basis for such diagnostic tests is sound.
To do nothing in the face of such knowledge for so long in the presence of an obvious risk of catastrophe is inexcusable. How can the Government establishment at Pirbright, England, justify its status as a world centre for the study of foot-and-mouth disease? The "new" science (which in reality is several years old) would have predictably led to providing us with a diagnostic kit that could be applied on farm to check for evidence of infection or vaccination, with clear distinction between the two.
In other but related fields of scientific endeavour, there is plenty of evidence that this could indeed be achieved. Bureaucracy got in the way so that such important scientific advances could not be used until such time that trials in the EC had been done. The golden opportunity of doing the trials during the epidemic was missed with all help refused.Such trials should have been done before the outbreak as part of a contingency strategy, which clearly was non-existent in spite of the obvious risk. Bureaucratic rules emanating from what appears to be an incompetent EC Veterinary Committee prevailed, while it waited to be asked. Apparently, it does not intend considering what to do about the UK epidemic and its spread to elsewhere in the EC until later this year. Everyone must now be aware that the EC is very good at making endless directives, but is useless at business management in terms of making realistic decisions within a practical time frame. (full text)
Nov 1

New animal health bill is premature, says farm union
News Wales

New government measures to speed up the culling of livestock in any future foot and mouth outbreak are far too premature, the Farmers' Union of Wales stressed today. They are a knee-jerk reaction to the implications of the current foot and mouth crisis and will do nothing to assist farmers, said FUW President Bob Parry. The Animal Health Bill, published today, proposes giving Government vets and officials stronger powers to enforce the rapid culling of livestock in any future outbreak. "It appears the Government is trying to shift blame for the current outbreak on to the farmers instead of looking at the facts. We believe the only proper way of identifying all the weaknesses in the handling of the present crisis is by way of a public inquiry," said Mr Parry. ............. "The FUW firmly believes that farmers must retain the right of appeal against some of the additional powers for vets and other officials being proposed in this Bill," Mr Parry added. Welsh Tories have also criticised the bill. "It looks like farmers are once again the victims of the government's own incompetence. If there problems during the crisis then Labour only have themselves to blame. Once again they're seeking to try and pass the buck for their own mistakes," said Conservative agriculture spokesman Peter Rogers AM. "It's laughable that we've not yet implemented controls at the ports to prevent infected food for coming in and yet the government are bringing in legislation which will allow indiscriminate slaughter."
Nov 1

New laws on culling tighten screw on farms
Guardian

Tough measures forcing farmers to cooperate with livestock culls to combat foot and mouth were unveiled yesterday as the government tightened the screw against agriculture and angrily accused sections of the industry of spreading the disease. New laws giving ministers powers to have slaughtered any animals thought necessary in the battle against foot and mouth, raised the spectre of police accompanying government vets on to holdings to keep angry farmers at bay. With Margaret Beckett, the environment, food and rural affairs secretary, warning of the disease breaking out in pockets later this year - there has not been an outbreak for a month - the animal health (amendment) bill will scrap a lengthy procedure allowing farmers to appeal before a cull. .............................
Last night farmers accused the government of underhand tactics by attempting to shift the blame for mishandling the eight month foot and mouth crisis away from the former ministry of agriculture. Lawyers also claimed that the new powers couldbreach the Human Rights Act. ................... . Peter and Gillian Cave, who successfully went to court in March to save 100 pedigree Devon cattle earmarked for slaughter in a contiguous cull, accused the government of "jackboot tactics". Mr Cave claimed hundreds of thousands of healthy animals had been needlessly killed. "This smacks of Nazi law, malicious and spiteful - you bloody well behave or we'll get you." Lawyers representing farmers questioned the legality of the new measures. Tim Russ, a partner in a Taunton practice, said it still had to be determined whether the disease had spread through government mismanagement or poor farming practice. He said introducing arbitrary culling without an appeals procedure could breach the EU law. ............ Nov 1

Farmers lose out on compensation
BBC

Farmers have said the Arable sector is at an all-time low Arable farmers calling on the government to claim compensation from the EU have been rebuffed. Junior food and rural affairs minister Elliot Morley cited the cost of foot-and-mouth when he announced the claim had been rejected. Elliot Morley "We have decided not to draw down these funds given the many competing demands on the Exchequer at present, not least the cost of eradicating foot-and-mouth disease". Under the terms of the compensation the government would have had to match any funds provided through EU compensation. The announcement, in a Commons written answer, came after Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott refused to be drawn on the issue as he stood in for Tony Blair during prime minister's questions. .....
Nov 1

Europe is master
Letter in Telegraph

Date: 31 October 2001 Christopher Booker, Litton, Som
SIR - Having just published a detailed analysis of the foot and mouth catastrophe ("Not the Foot and Mouth Report"), I read with particular interest your summary of the preliminary findings of the inquiry set up by Devon County Council (report, Oct 29).
Certainly, Professor Mercer has identified most of the key errors that made the Government's handling of this crisis, in his own word, so "lamentable". But it is important to recognise how many of his admirable recommendations for changes in policy are subject to the agreement of the European Commission, which has exercised ultimate control over foot and mouth policy since the 1980s. These include everything from the rules on importing food and disposal of carcasses to the use of vaccination, on which it seems, in light of the UK disaster, the Commission is already moving towards a change in policy.
Professor Mercer calls for a "national contingency plan" to ensure that such mistakes are never repeated. He should know that precisely such a detailed contingency plan already exists. It was approved by the European Commission in 1993, but has been kept firmly out of public view ever since. Can the Government explain why we are not allowed to see this document?
posted Nov 1

New laws to fight farm diseases
Farmers Weekly

THE government has unveiled proposals for new legislation to improve its handling of future foot-and-mouth outbreaks. In a bid to speed up the containment of the disease, the Animal Health Bill would force farmers to comply with orders to slaughter their livestock. Ministers believe the fight against foot-and-mouth was hampered by farmers who appealed against culls of apparently healthy animals. The new bill, announced in London on Wednesday (31 October), also contains plans to eradicate the BSE-type disease scrapie in sheep. Some scientists fear that scrapie could be masking BSE in sheep and ministers want to develop "rapid" tests to see whether this is the case. Peter Jinman, a member of the BSE advisory committee, said it was proving difficult to validate the sheep tests because they are so complex. Ministers may want to review the validation process, especially because the tests are new and there is nothing to compare them with, he said. .................. Molecular tests have been used on 465 scrapie-infected sheep brains from the current flock at the government's Veterinary Laboratory Agency. None of the samples tested positive for BSE. But the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has warned that it is still not possible to guarantee that sheep are free from BSE. It wants more technology made available so it can test more sheep in the hope of drawing a conclusion about whether the disease is in sheep.
Oct 31

Foot-and-mouth Inquiries
BBC

Just over 2,000 cases of foot-and-mouth animals were confirmed during the epidemic, yet almost 4,000,000 animals were slaughtered. The government's policy of mass culling and its refusal to vaccinate are likely to be central issues at the inquiries into the epidemic now getting under way. ......... Millions of uninfected animals were slaughtered during the mass culls The government has introduced new powers to force farmers to co-operate with the mass culling of animals in any future outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease. Some farmers asserted their right to have their animals tested before they were slaughtered, leading to delays and the spread of disease according to some scientists. .... Giant pyres to burn animal carcasses were seen as mediaeval and barbaric
The Government's response to the foot-and-mouth crisis in Devon was "lamentable", according to the county's inquiry into the outbreak. The inquiry says giant pyres used to burn animal carcasses should not be used again and the government should look again at the option of vaccination.
Cull delays made epidemic worse Many government vets were reluctant to accept the policy of mass culling More aggressive culling of livestock could have helped reduce the scale of the foot-and-mouth epidemic according to studies by two groups of scientists. The researchers say around one million fewer animals would have had to be slaughtered if the government had acted sooner on the advice received from experts.
Oct 31

New laws could speed up the culling of livestock
BBC

(warmwell note: let no one be in any doubt about the nature of this bill. It intends to wrest the last power from the hands of people who own livestock of any kind, making it illegal for them to protect their animals from government powers of slaughter. It is to be rushed through Parliament on the nod. It seems horribly likely that no one at Westminster will be awake enough to stop it.) New government powers to strengthen the fight against animal diseases are being unveiled on Wednesday. The Animal Health Bill aims to close loopholes which ministers claim have made it more difficult to eradicate both foot and mouth disease, and a BSE-type disease in sheep called scrapie. Scientists believe the fight against foot-and-mouth was weakened by farmers, who used the power of appeal against culls of apparently healthy animals on farms neighbouring confirmed outbreaks. This caused delays, making it more difficult to keep on top of the spread of the virus - and may in some cases have allowed other farms to become infected. (warmwell note: How DARE the BBC report such blatant propaganda.) Wednesday's bill proposes giving government vets and officials stronger powers to enforce the rapid culling of livestock in any future outbreak.
Scrapie fears
The bill will also step up attempts to rid the British sheep population of the brain disease scrapie. Although it has been around for hundreds of years and is not harmful to people, it has similar symptoms to BSE, linked to the fatal brain disease variant CJD in humans. (warmwell note: again, this is just disgraceful manipulation of language. There is NO proven link between BSE and CJD, let alone any evidence that sheep can develop BSE.) The fear is that scrapie could be masking BSE in sheep - it is that possibility which scientists were investigating when it was found that they had been testing cattle brains instead of sheep tissue. A voluntary scheme to breed scrapie out of sheep has had a low take-up by farmers, so the bill is expected to introduce powers for the compulsory testing programme for rams.
Huge slaughter
Those with a genetic make-up likely to produce lambs at risk from the disease would have to be slaughtered or castrated. The final element of the proposed law is to prepare for an event everyone hopes will never happen. (warmwell note: No, not "everyone". It is precisely such an excuse as this that those involved have been seeking to eradicate the sheep in this country. The supermarket barons for example, with their eyes on cheap exports will rejoice.) If it is found that BSE has in fact crossed from cattle to sheep, plans have been drawn up which could involve the slaughter of all of the 40 million sheep in Britain. This would involve a huge operation phased over several years, and powers are now being put into place to allow this to happen - hopefully they will never have to be used. (warmwell note: "hopefully", an adverb we prefer to use correctly, cannot describe the way we face the future when New Labour behave in a way that horrifies and disgusts anyone who still has any integrity and concern for social justice.)
Oct 31

From the Devon County Council Inquiry :On the use of vaccination and slaughter
Interim Report

1.10 ....We find that the Government should give greater priority to more scientific research into this area backed with appropriate funds and contracts and should initiate international co-operation on this front. It might replace totally the present methodology for preventing a future outbreak. (warmwell note: Lord Whitty had no grounds for suggesting on Farming Today yesterday that "the arguments put to the Devon Inquiry which they didn't completely accept was that at times vaccination would have been an alternative to culling" These paragraphs show that the Devon Inquiry found an urgent need to review vaccination as an alternative to culling.)
1.11 But, in the short term, the use of vaccination to contain the disease and thus reduce the pressure on the system of slaughtering and disposal must be considered.
1.12 We find that the whole question of using vaccination in the interest of temporary containment must be explored in the context of 1.10 above. DEFRA should recognise that farmers routinely inject stock regularly as part of their livestock husbandry. The ridiculous and dangerous situation brought about by attempts at last-minute training of vaccinators should never be repeated because there are clear alternatives 1.13 Reports received by the Inquiry of insensitive and even belligerent operatives and bungled culls do little to enhance the professional reputation of all those involved, from Ministers downwards. If culling on or beyond confirmed infected farms should persist then the actual process of killing animals must be handled more sensitively and more humanely.
1.14 We find that training in slaughter management is needed. It should include clear instruction in the assessment of the likely impact that slaughtering will have on farmers, their families and other witnesses. This of course will not be necessary if slaughter is discontinued in future policies. (Devon's emphasis)
Oct 31

EU fails to meet cost of foot-and-mouth disease
Financial Times

By Daniel Dombey in Brussels and Cathy Newman in London The European Commission is to give Britain less than E800m (£500m) towards the cost of foot-and-mouth - two-thirds of what the government has demanded. The taxpayer has had to pay more than £1.7bn for compensating farmers for slaughtered livestock. The government has lodged a provisional request for E1.2bn from the European Commission, Michaele Schreyer, budget commissioner said on Tuesday. The environment department said it would continue pushing for the remainder of the money. However, the Tories said they were "disillusioned with the Commission's reluctance to reimburse Britain in full". Ann Winterton, Conservative agriculture spokesman, said: "We are one of the largest contributors to the EU funds: it's a pretty poor show when the British government asks for assistance that we have been turned down in this way." ......
Oct 31

Watchdog set to investigate Maff's 'poaching' of vets
Independent

By Marie Woolf Chief Political Correspondent 31 October 2001 The Government's financial watchdog is to investigate claims that the Ministry of Agriculture diverted too many vets to the fight against foot-and-mouth, leaving abattoirs and meat factories dangerously exposed to the threat of other diseases. The National Audit Office is to follow up a complaint from the biggest supplier of vets in the country about salaries of up to £100,000 paid to recruit professionals to the fight against the epidemic. Jason Aldiss, the managing director of Evill and Jones, the country's biggest private contractor of vets, said the pay offered by the Government "was so good that our people abandoned us". Abattoirs and meat factories were severely overstretched and in some cases unable to meet the Government's own standards introduced this year to protect the public against diseases such as BSE. The investigation will assess claims that public health vets were warning the now-defunct Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Maff) on a daily basis that they were haemorrhaging staff during the crisis because of the salaries being offered by the Government. Andrew Storrar, president of the Veterinary Public Health Association, said: "Public health could have been disturbed by not having the number of people to cover. We were overwhelmed because we could not compete with these salaries. It was farcical." Downing Street was told about the dangers but vets say their pleas were ignored. Hundreds of vets saw their salaries double when they signed up to work on a daily rate for the Government, which paid up to £250 a day as well as offering perks including a car, mobile phone and free hotel accommodation. The Independent has learnt that an official complaint has been made to the inland revenue that some vets recruited from abroad left the country without paying tax. The Tories accused the Government last night of a "grotesque waste of public money" in supplying vets. Peter Ainsworth, shadow Secretary of State for the Environment, said: "Seeing them handing out money hand over fist like this is shocking." Mr Aldiss said: "From 1 April this year we were required to provide 100 per cent supervision of all fresh meat facilities including cutting plants and slaughterhouses. So we recruited 60 vets to ensure compliance. Thirty were subsequently poached by Maff. That left us extremely short-staffed and I known that other contractors were left in the same position and were unable to provide the cover required. "In future they [Maff and its successor] have to learn lessons from this. We all warned them. They knew what was happening and nobody listened at all." The Department of the Environment Food and Rural Affairs, which was created after the demise of Maff, denied that public health had been compromised by its policy of hiring vets on high rates. It said it had received no complaints from the Meat Hygiene Service which is in charge of enforcing government standards. Some 600 vets are still being paid the high rates even though there have been no cases of foot-and-mouth for the past month. But the Government is now understood to be looking at introducing fixed-term contracts for vets to save money.
Oct 31

CULLING STILL BEST CONTROL - WHITTY
Farmers Guardian

by PA News reporters (October 30, 2001)
Mass culling would remain the Government's policy in the event of a further outbreak of foot-and-mouth, in spite of the experience of this year's epidemic, Lord Whitty said today.

The food minister said he would not pre-empt the three independent inquiries being carried out into the outbreak. But he confirmed that, at present, Government policy on culling had not changed.

Lord Whitty told BBC Radio 4's Farming Today: "Policy at the moment would be to follow the successful dimensions of the strategy we have adopted so far, which is basically that the culling, as long as we match the target figures, is effective in containing the disease. "There may be other measures which could be supportive to that - measures of tighter biosecurity and control of movements and import controls - but we would at this point primarily go for culling. "At the moment, we can see vaccination being a support to culling in certain circumstances, but it is not an alternative to culling."
(Full transcript )
..(warmwell note: this makes perfect logical sense in our Brave New LabourWorld where the government is intent, and has been from the start, not on animal health and supporting British farming but on the death of both. Can there be any further doubt that its intention is to eradicate stock in Britain for the benefit of cheap imports and to pursue its own arcane designs on the wilder parts of the country?) ......
Oct 30

An epidemic of evasion
Telegraph Leader

GOVERNMENTS generally hold inquiries for three reasons: to assuage public concerns; to learn lessons from past failure; and to prevent the repetition of mistakes. By all three criteria, the case for a full public inquiry into the handling of the foot and mouth epidemic is overwhelming. It is difficult, even now, to describe the full scale of the calamity.......
In the absence of an official public inquiry, there have been two "freelance" investigations: one by Devon County Council and one by the magazine Private Eye. The European Parliament, under pressure from Conservative MEPs, looks likely to order a third. .......Private Eye, in a remarkably thorough investigation, is even more scathing. It accuses the Government of slaughtering millions of animals unnecessarily, of acting outside the law, and of setting its policy to suit Labour's election timetable. Despite a petition of more than 100,000 signatures organised by Farmers' Weekly, ministers have resolutely refused to set up a public tribunal. Instead, they have organised in-house studies with limited remits. All the key questions thus remain unanswered. When did ministers first hear of the outbreak? What action did they order? Why were they so slow to halt the movement of animals? Is it true, as we report today, that 40 per cent of the culled beasts might have been saved by more prompt action? Why were the lessons of 1967 ignored? Why were there such unconscionable delays between identification, slaughter and destruction? Why the vacillation over burning versus burial, and slaughter versus vaccination? Many country people are convinced that ministers are reluctant to allow a public inquiry for one reason: they fear it would reveal that their reaction to the disease was dictated by electoral rather than veterinary criteria. Put crudely, many farmers suspect that ministers were far more concerned with the date of the election than with eradicating the disease, and that this prejudiced their response to it. Without a full inquiry, who is to say that this suspicion is unfounded?
Oct 30

Plan now for next foot-and-mouth, ministers are told
The Times

BY ELIZABETH JUDGE
THE Government should immediately prepare a national foot-and-mouth contingency plan, according to the chairman of the only public inquiry into the outbreak. Ian Mercer, who yesterday published his preliminary findings into the handling of the epidemic in Devon, said that the Government should be "getting on with it" rather that waiting for the results of the three national inquiries. Ministers' handling of the outbreak in Devon had been "lamentable", the report said. There should be a national contingency plan that would "cascade down via region to the county, the district and the parish". The call was backed by David Hill, chairman of the Devon branch of the National Farmers' Union. Lord Whitty, the Farming Minister, admitted that the contingency plan introduced after the 1967 epidemic had not been adequate to contain this year's outbreaks and had not been widely shared with the farming community. "We do need to improve communication and be better prepared if this happens again," he said. He defended the decision not to proceed with vaccination and said that a Bill dealing with animal disease outbreaks was being prepared.( warmwell note: this may well refer to the Animal Health bill which is to be rushed through parliament under the wing of "bio-terrorism" legislation, extending powers to slaughter without owners' consent ...another bullying government sledgehammer designed to miss the nut) Professor Mercer' report accused the Government of trying to handle this year's epidemic by "poring over maps in remote offices" while ignoring the knowledge and experience of local people. The decision to burn carcasses in huge pyres was"disastrous";..........The report said that vaccination should be considered in future. Peter Ainsworth, the Shadow Secretary for Rural Affairs, said that the Government seemed keener to shirk its responsibilities than to establish why things went wrong. The Prince of Wales said yesterday that farmers would need "all the moral support possible" as winter drew in and that people should pray that the worst of the epidemic was over. Visiting Dartmoor National Park Authority for its 50th anniversary, he said that as he had watched the epidemic unfold "the frustration was not being able to do enough to help but having to witness so many people having to go though what must be complete hell". The Prince gave £500,000 to help farmers at the height of the outbreak.
Oct 30

Government admits errors handling foot-and-mouth
Financial Times

The government on Monday admitted there had been "communication problems" over plans to combat the foot-and-mouth outbreak, after an inquiry by Devon County Council said the government's handling of the affair was "lamentable". Lord Whitty, farming minister, said that while plans were in place to deal with an outbreak, they were not disseminated fully. He said: "The contingency plan was not sufficiently shared with stakeholders [the farming community]...future contingency plans for this and other outbreaks should be shared more widely and tested." Professor Ian Mercer, whose report into Devon's outbreak was published on Monday, urged the government to prepare an immediate contingency plan: "Nothing should delay it...they should be getting on with it now". ........................ It also criticised the way in which government officials treated individuals and communities, a charge which Lord Whitty acknowledged. "There were...insensitivities in the beginning. That is not a criticism of our staff but we do need to be improve communication and be better prepared if it happens again," he added. (warmwell note: Would Lord Whitty classify as "insensitivities" the physical beating up of a Devon farmer by policemen when he attempted to stand between his stock and the slaughter teams? Would he use the adjective "insensitive" to describe the behaviour of those who caused the horrors at Knowstone?) Professor Mercer also said vaccination must be considered to contain any future outbreak. However, Lord Whitty defended the government's decision not to proceed with a vaccination programme. He said: "I think it is important to say that throughout the disease the government has been prepared to look at it, but it [vaccination] was important to get the support of farmers in Devon and it was clear that we didn't have the sort of support to implement it". (warmwell note: and who was asked?)
Oct 30

Re: Touching the surface
Telegraph Letter

SIR - Margaret Beckett talks of working in partnership with the farming community to achieve a 14 per cent reduction in ammonia emissions by 2010. She must be well pleased with herself for reaching her target some nine years in advance - or has no one told her that her department has successfully removed something close to that percentage of animals during the foot and mouth crisis?

SIR - I am amazed at the ignorance of the agriculture industry displayed by Margaret Beckett (letter, Oct 26). She suggests that farmers should plough in manure, rather than simply spreading it, as this reduces emissions of ammonia. ...........Unfortunately, cattle lift their tails several times a day, producing unimaginable quantities of manure every winter. Most farms do not have sufficient land under the plough to dispose of one winter's manure in the manner suggested by the minister. Dare I suggest that more ammonia is emitted by the large agri-businesses favoured by Lord Whitty than by smaller family farms, particularly those which have opted for an organic system of production? Perhaps attention should first be paid to the artificial fertiliser industry, or is the Government wary of upsetting large chemical companies? Agriculture is a very complex industry, and any minister who thinks she can tackle any one of its problems in isolation is extremely naive.
Oct 29

MPs renew calls for virus inquiry
Farmers Weekly

OPPOSITION MPs have renewed calls for a public inquiry into foot-and-mouth following the publication of the Devon report into the crisis The preliminary report from the Devon foot-and-mouth inquiry proves the need for a full public inquiry into the epidemic, they said. The report, published on Monday (29 October) brands the government's handling of the crisis as lamentable. Shadow Rural Affairs Secretary Peter Ainsworth said it was probable that shortcomings identified in Devon had been repeated elsewhere. "It is disgraceful that the Government seems more set on running away from its own responsibilities than on establishing what went wrong and why." The government's half-hearted participation in the Devon inquiry was an insult to thousands of people who had suffered, said Mr Ainsworth. Refusing to hold a full inquiry would only deepen the sense of anger felt by millions across the whole of the country, he said. Lib Dem Rural Affairs spokesman Malcolm Bruce said it was ironic that farmers were more comfortable dealing with the army than the government. ..........
Oct 29

Farmer burns flag in food protest
Farmers Weekly

By FWi staff
A BRITISH farmer burned an American flag in protest at global food policies which, he claims, are driving small producers out of business. Hector Christie, a pig farmer from North Devon, burned the flag during a protest before 50 protestors in Gloucestershire on Saturday (27 October). Mr Christie from Tapely Farm, near Bideford, said: "Small farmers are being crushed beneath globally-centred economics and loaded legislation" Low prices had forced Mr Christie to kill 11 piglets. Even giving away the animals would have cost him £150 in vet bills and £55 in transport costs. Mr Christie said he burned the American flag in response to World Trade Organisation rules which were hurting small farmers. "We are currently killing thousands of animals per day because we can't move or sell them while exports roll in by the lorry load," he said. "We incinerate or bury our healthy animals while Afghans starve." The Marquess of Worcester, formerly TV actress Tracey Ward, also warned that global food policies were killing Britain's small farmers She was cheered as she spoke from the bandstand in Gloucester Park, Gloucester, before marching on the city's Shire Hall. (warmwell note: interesting that the Farmers Weekly report this so inaccurately. Hector was dissuaded from burning the flag and, although the day was not at all thought a disappointment, the march did not in fact take place. The rest of the report is correct.) Farmers are being strangled by supermarkets who buy food from abroad rather than using healthy produce grown on their doorstep, she said. The 42-year-old marquess, who lives on the Badminton Estate, now works as an ecologist supporting local farmers. Among the marchers were Cornish farmer Simon Burbage and Gloucestershire farmer Sue Osbourne. Mr Burbage said: "Quite why we need to go to Afghanistan to fight terrorism I don't know. We have a terrorist called Tony Blair in Whitehall." "He has shown a total disregard for every rural issue." Mrs Osbourne said: "Foot-and-mouth has been swept under the carpet so Tony Blair can get on with his war."
Oct 29

F&M staff paid bonuses despite concerns
icWales

By Jamie Lyons, PA
Bonuses were paid to Welsh Assembly staff handling the foot-and-mouth crisis -despite the finance minister's ''great reservations'' about such rewards, it emerged today. Edwina Hart said Assembly officials had been rewarded for their exceptional work during the outbreak. Mrs Hart told today's plenary session: ''Bonus payments were given to Assembly staff involved in foot-and-mouth as recognition of what happened in that period.'' The revelation came minutes after Mrs Hart told AMs of her objection to such payments. ''I personally have very great reservations about the effectiveness of any performance bonuses,'' she said. (warmwell note: Yes, we have too. And in this case, we cannot help but wonder what "performance" was thought worthy of such reward while welsh farmers continue to struggle painfully under restrictions and hardships brought about by these servants of the government. While the Devon report describes the policy as "lamentable" and remarks, "Reports of insensitive and even belligerent operatives and bungled culls do little to enhance the professional reputation of those involved, from ministers downwards" we have to wonder for what services exactly these bonuses in Wales were paid. )
The minister said in certain cases bonus payments were justified. But she said she had concerns about the manipulation of some systems of performance-related pay........
posted Oct 29

Government 'lamentable' over foot and mouth
Telegraph

By Richard Savill
A REPORT into the foot and mouth crisis today describes the Government's handling of the epidemic as "lamentable". The report, the outcome of the only independent public inquiry into the outbreak, finds fault with almost every aspect of the Government's approach. It accuses the Government and its agencies of "insensitive treatment" of ordinary individuals and communities, and none of those involved escapes criticism. It says: "Reports received by the inquiry of insensitive and even belligerent operatives and bungled culls do little to enhance the professional reputation of all those involved, from ministers downwards. "If culling on or beyond confirmed infected farms should persist then the actual process of killing animals must be handled more sensitively and more humanely." The report says the contiguous cull policy "appeared to have been implemented by officials poring over maps in remote offices, so that only holdings were considered, not the topography, the disposition of animals upon it, nor the distances between them." The 20-page report makes 31 recommendations and is the result of this month's five-day public inquiry chaired by Prof Ian Mercer into the outbreak in Devon, one of the worst-affected counties. In his foreword, Prof Mercer, 68, the former secretary general of Association of National Park Authorities, says it is "already clear that the outbreak and the handling of the ensuing crisis was lamentable". The report goes on to say that there should be an immediate ban on animal movements on the first day of any future outbreak. The inquiry heard that the Government's delay between announcing the first case and stopping all animal movements meant hundreds of thousands of sheep were moved, spreading the disease across the country. The report also says that vaccination must be considered to help the temporary containment of any future epidemic. It calls for a national contingency plan, such as that produced for maritime pollution response by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency. The report adds that situations arose in Devon where "the insensitive treatment of ordinary individuals and communities confronted by events outside their control did nothing to foster a united front or provide community leadership against the common enemy - the disease itself". Lessons that should have been learned from the 1967 outbreak did not appear to have been implemented and "recommendations of the official report into that outbreak were ignored". The inquiry was set up by Devon County Council, with all-party support, and the inquiry team, which heard 50 witnesses and received written submissions from another 300, comprised seven county and district councillors.
The Government has announced three inquiries into the foot and mouth crisis, but unlike Devon, it has rejected demands from the farming community to hear evidence in public.
Prof Mercer has sent his preliminary findings - a full report is to be published later this year - to Tony Blair, Lord Haskins, the Government's rural recovery co-ordinator, and Lord Whitty, the minister responsible for co-ordinating Defra evidence to the foot and mouth inquiries.
Oct 29

Plan to vaccinate cattle 'vetoed' Ex-minister says food lobby barred foot and mouth policy
Guardian

Peter Hetherington, regional affairs editor
The government came close to authorising the limited vaccination of livestock in an attempt to curb the spread of foot and mouth over six months ago, the former minister of agriculture revealed yesterday. But it had been unable to go ahead because of opposition from the food industry, he claimed.
In a frank assessment of Whitehall's shortcomings in the midst of the epidemic, Nick Brown, who frequently faced the wrath of angry farmers, came close to questioning the government's strategy and hinted it could have been tougher. While avoiding directly criticising Downing Street's role in taking over the day-to-day management of disease control, he acknowledged there was a strong argument for vaccinating cattle soon after foot and mouth broke out.
Earlier his former special adviser said the government was singularly ill-prepared for the epidemic and was playing "catch-up" from day one. Mr Brown's comments, to the BBC's North of Westminster programme, will fuel demands for a public inquiry into the crisis, which has led to the slaughter of 5m animals - the majority healthy - and 2,030 confirmed cases of the disease. It has cost the government at least £1bn in compensation to farmers alone. Since leaving the Ministry of Agriculture for a more junior post in the Department of Work and Pensions, Mr Brown had kept his counsel, although political allies feel he was badly treated by Downing Street and received little recognition for his work at the former ministry.
His intervention comes as the findings of the first unofficial inquiry, published today, criticise the government's "lamentable" handling of the epidemic. Organised by Devon county council in protest at the government's failure to hold its own public investigation, the inquiry speaks of "carnage by computer" undertaken by insensitive "and even belligerent" operatives and of "bungled culls". Mr Brown, a former government chief whip and ally of the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, told the BBC: "I think there was a good case for vaccination and I explored it very fully indeed. The key difficulty was that there was no guarantee that the public would buy the milk from vaccinated animals or eat the meat from cattle which had been vaccinated. The retailers said there is consumer resistance, we will not stock the product." His admission follows a Guardian investigation earlier this year which revealed minutes of a high-level Whitehall meeting when, according to participants, limited vaccination was agreed and then vetoed by the food industry. Kieron Simpson, former special adviser to Mr Brown, said the Ministry of Agriculture had not appreciated the speed at which modern farming methods spread the disease. When the disease first struck, at the end of February, the ministry assumed it was dealing with "just a couple of cases". "The virus had a head start and we were left playing catch-up," he said last week. "No one appreciated the extent of sheep movements or how far the disease had spread. It was only when we became aware of the sheer scale of the problem that it became clear for everyone that the department did not have the resources or people to cope with it." In the Devon inquiry report, Professor Ian Mercer, who chaired the hearing, criticised the new Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs for refusing to take part. The report is scathing about the official response to foot and mouth, government indifference to the plight of rural communities, and the use of huge pyres to dispose of animals. "The crisis that a major outbreak generates is not an excuse for the government and its agencies to override the welfare of individuals or communities or to ignore the long-established rules for the management of the environment."
Oct 29

Ministers 'bungled' handling of disease

BY A CORRESPONDENT
THE Government's handling of the foot-and-mouth emergency has been condemned as "lamentable" by a report from the only public inquiry to have been held into the epidemic. The preliminary report of the Devon hearing into the foot-and-mouth epidemic, published today, calls for a national contingency plan to respond to any future outbreak. The panel finished its hearing earlier this month in Exeter after hearing from 50 witnesses and considering more than 360 submissions. Its chairman, Ian Mercer, says in his foreword to the report that the decision by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs not to attend the inquiry had been "deplored by many". Professor Mercer says it was clear "that the outbreak and handling of the crisis was lamentable". The document adds: "Reports of insensitive and even belligerent operatives and bungled culls do little to enhance the professional reputation of those involved, from ministers downwards."
Oct 29

National plan called for to combat foot-and-mouth outbreaks
Ananova

A national contingency plan to respond to any future foot-and-mouth outbreak is being called for. The plea comes in a report from the only public inquiry into the outbreak. The preliminary report of the Devon hearing brands the handling of the crisis as "lamentable". It adds that a plan should "cascade" down via the region to parish level, and should be reviewed, tested and rehearsed up to every five years. The report says: "We find that in the field there would best be a military command, with police, environmental and veterinary aides at its side from day one of an outbreak." Among the suggestions are:
The tightening of import controls on meat and livestock products - with new legislation if necessary Greater Government priority into more scientific research into vaccination An immediate ban on animal movements from day one of any future outbreak An end to the use of large scale pyres to dispose of livestock corpses.
See also BBC report
Oct 29

Export delay frustrates farmers
BBC

The EU has raised restrictions on the export of pig meat Farmers have expressed disappointment that the government has failed to implement regulations allowing British meat to be exported to Europe for the first time since the foot-and-mouth crisis began. Exports should have started a week ago after the European Union (EU) lifted the ban on the export of pig meat from animals raised in counties completely free of foot-and-mouth. .............. Last week Margaret Beckett said she was unaware of any difficulties starting exports. But officials at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) admit it could still be a few more days before British meat can be imported into Europe. It appears the stringent licensing system demanded by the committee is far from being in place. A spokesman for the Meat and Livestock Commission said there were already thousands of pounds worth of orders from Europe waiting to be filled.
Oct 29

MP says bio-terrorists could be behind foot-and-mouth
Ananova

An MP says that foot-and-mouth disease may have been introduced to Britain by terrorists as a biological attack. The claim comes from Bruce George, the chairman of the House of Commons defence select committee. He says the idea is "very possible", although he does not think it likely.
(warmwell note: "bio terrorists" were behind the foot and mouth policy all right; unfortunately they were not fanatic foreigners but part of our own so-called establishment. The catastrophe might be a little less hard to bear if this were not the case.) He told Radio Five Live's Late Night Currie show: "If it is possible to open a letter and then be contaminated with anthrax it is possible, although I do not think at this stage it is likely, that foot-and-mouth was a deliberate attempt to destroy animals and human beings. "I think it is being considered." He made his comments during a phone-in on the programme.
Oct 29

Sheep slaughter to eradicate scrapie
Independent

26 October 2001 The Government is proposing new powers that would allow the slaughter of millions of sheep if scrapie is found to be widespread in the UK's flocks. The Animal Health Bill is to be introduced within weeks as ministers prepare plans to test the entire sheep population for their susceptibility to the brain disease. The Bill, which will also allow more extensive testing for BSE, will to try to prevent a repetition of the scandal surrounding the handling of the foot-and-mouth epidemic. Experts fear that scrapie could be linked with BSE, although this has not been proven. However, sheep shown to be at great risk are certain to be shot. That is bound to prove unpopular with struggling sheep farmers who have seen prices slide to rock bottom levels in recent years. "This is just another kick in the teeth to an industry that is so far down on the ground it is lucky to get up again," said Janet George of Countryside Action Network. "There is still no proof positive that BSE came from scrapie."
posted Oct 29

There You Go Again, Monsanto
Gene Watch

Commentary by Martin Teitel ....... the new management at Monsanto has been working to portray the biotech giant as a kinder and gentler behemoth. Earlier this year, however, Monsanto reverted to form in its dogged prosecution of a fifth-generation Canadian farm family. Septuagenarian Percy Schmeiser is a fifth-generation Canadian farmer. At the end of March, a Canadian judge ordered Schmeiser to pay Monsanto $85,000as a penalty for growing Monsanto's herbicide resistant canola without the company's permission. On top of the $200,000 he has already spent on his court battle, the cost of the inevitable appeal, and his counter suit against Monsanto, Schmeiser is facing financial ruin. ..... Essentially Monsanto was awarded payment for its contamination of the farmer's crops, whether by dropped seeds or pollen drifting in the wind........ It is as if a judge held people who had been contaminated by Monsanto's PCBs liable for the cost of the chemicals, or if a soft drink company tried to charge for its product, having found an empty container on a front lawn. ..................The 1.4 billion small farmers in the world's poorest countries rely on seed saving for their lives and livelihoods. Agribusiness companies and trade reps from the US and other northern countries have long wanted to find ways to jostle subsistence farmers off their delicate balance of self-sufficiency, in order to create a dependence on imported seeds, fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, petroleum products to pump water, and other accoutrements of "modern" agriculture. This concerted effort to create dependency, which the outside "experts" describe in terms of increasing crop yield, alleviating starvation and "harmonizing" laws, has been tried before. The Green Revolution managed to increase both crop yields and starvation by pushing high-input hybrid monocultures. At its core was an effort to get farmers out of the traditional barter and subsistence system into mainstream commerce and the international agricultural commodities trade. The new push for biotech crops in the third world follows a very similar pattern. It attempts to disrupt traditional means of obtaining food in favor of creating dependencies on imported seeds and chemicals. Central in this scheme is the enforcement of prohibitions on seed saving, the fundamental threat to agricultural bio-colonialism. This larger struggle for global agricultural hegemony might well be the underlying motive behind Monsanto's suit against Schmeiser, and the scores of similar actions still in court. While the immediate victim of this unjust decision is a gentle farmer from Canada, the real target might well be far poorer and vulnerable small farmers in Zimbabwe, Colombia, and other countries around the third world.
posted Oct 28

Christopher Booker's Diary
Sunday Telegraph

After the BBC, the deluge WHAT a comical muddle our metrication fanatics so often get into about the object of their infatuation. Last Sunday a reader, Paul Holyoak, noted a BBC Ceefax item on the day's floods. The Environment Agency had reported a deluge in Braintree, Essex. "after 60 to 70 millilitres of rain fell between 3am and 9am". As Mr Holyoak comments "12-14 teaspoonfuls of rain a deluge? How did they measure it?" (warmwell note: the Environment Agency, run by Baroness Young, seems to us to be as potentially damaging as Defra in its bullying and restrictive proposals. To discover that they can't tell a millilitre from a centimetre is not unlike the inablity to tell a cow from a sheep - and as deeply worrying for the rest of us.)
Oct 28

One man's meat - From cows to humans
Sunday Times

The powerful hydraulic ram was able to pulp entire cattle skeletons in minutes. Flesh and bone were crushed and then sieved through industrial filters to produce a pungent black slurry. It was neither pretty nor appetising, but for the directors at Scotbeef Ltd it was a sight to behold - their chance to carve themselves a slice of the huge profits to be made in the cheap meat revolution. ...........Although no direct link has yet been established, independent scientists believe that beef MRM made from BSE- infected cattle was responsible for the emergence of new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (nvCJD) in humans, which has claimed at least 107 lives in Britain since the first reported death in 1995.....
(warmwell note: Modern scientists involved in the food or medicine business produce findings that are not a result of a search for scientific truth but rather in favour of the interests of their backers. This use of the unexpected adjective "independent" here is significant; perhaps these unnamed scientists had a source of independent funding? We would be interested to know which scientists are referred to here. It seems likely that the Sunday Times means the scientists of the FSA and SEAC. Their "independence" however appears to be underwritten by the Wellcome Trust)
............ The controversy over the foot and mouth outbreak and the potential spread of BSE to sheep have further eroded public confidence in livestock farming and British meat. Additionally, only last week the government was accused of trying to conceal the embarrassing fact that a four-year study which cost taxpayers more than £200,000 was worthless because of a mix-up between the brains of sheep and cows. The FSA was meant to be in the vanguard of the new changes, but it seems that the lethargy which earlier afflicted the former Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has wafted down the corridors of the FSA. Its failure to determine which companies used MRM in which products has added to the injury suffered by families such as the Fyfes. "You can't begin to realise what it's like,"said Paula Fyfe. "I hope nobody else goes through what I went through, but I don't think that will be the case. "It's hard to blame anyone for what happened to Graham, but if it wasn't for greed and the desire to make as much money as possible, he might still be alive."
Oct 28

£1bn bill, 1.5m animals culled
The Journal

The foot-and-mouth crisis has cost the North-East £1bn, the lives of 1.5m animals and left the rural economy in tatters. On the first day of our investigation, on Wednesday, a key adviser to former agriculture minister Nick Brown admitted Maff had neither the staff nor resources to deal with the crisis and had been "playing catch-up" from the very first day We revealed yesterday how the Government's culling policy may have increased the spread of the virus The Journal's call for an independent public inquiry into the cause and handling of the foot-and-mouth crisis now has 24,230 supporters Mr Blair's government has announced three separate inquiries - none public Look out next week for a petition form in The Journal
Oct 28

Left to bear the scars for decades to come
The Journal

At first glance, it looks like many other places in the heart of the Northumberland countryside - small close-knit villages clustered round one another, a dotting of farms amid the open fields, and the occasional reminders of a once-thriving coal industry.

But the area around the villages of Widdrington and nearby Widdrington Station have something which makes it different It has been left to bear the scars of an agricultural catastrophe for decades to come, a legacy which haunts every person living there and which has sown the seeds of fear for their own and their children's health in years to come

Six long months at the forefront of foot-and-mouth disposal operations - a burial pit and a pyre site - has seen the community change irreversibly Where there has always been a resilient cheerfulness and willingness to accept adversity, a trait learned the hard way during the tough days of the coalmines, there is now also a deep distrust of authority
posted Oct 28

New animal health bill is premature, says farm union
News Wales

New government measures to speed up the culling of livestock in any future foot and mouth outbreak are far too premature, the Farmers' Union of Wales stressed today. They are a knee-jerk reaction to the implications of the current foot and mouth crisis and will do nothing to assist farmers, said FUW President Bob Parry. The Animal Health Bill, published today, proposes giving Government vets and officials stronger powers to enforce the rapid culling of livestock in any future outbreak. "It appears the Government is trying to shift blame for the current outbreak on to the farmers instead of looking at the facts. We believe the only proper way of identifying all the weaknesses in the handling of the present crisis is by way of a public inquiry," said Mr Parry. ............. "The FUW firmly believes that farmers must retain the right of appeal against some of the additional powers for vets and other officials being proposed in this Bill," Mr Parry added. Welsh Tories have also criticised the bill. "It looks like farmers are once again the victims of the government's own incompetence. If there problems during the crisis then Labour only have themselves to blame. Once again they're seeking to try and pass the buck for their own mistakes, said Conservative agriculture spokesman Peter Rogers AM. "It's laughable that we've not yet implemented controls at the ports to prevent infected food for coming in and yet the government are bringing in legislation which will allow indiscriminate slaughter."
Nov 1

New laws on culling tighten screw on farms
Guardian

Tough measures forcing farmers to cooperate with livestock culls to combat foot and mouth were unveiled yesterday as the government tightened the screw against agriculture and angrily accused sections of the industry of spreading the disease. New laws giving ministers powers to have slaughtered any animals thought necessary in the battle against foot and mouth, raised the spectre of police accompanying government vets on to holdings to keep angry farmers at bay. With Margaret Beckett, the environment, food and rural affairs secretary, warning of the disease breaking out in pockets later this year - there has not been an outbreak for a month - the animal health (amendment) bill will scrap a lengthy procedure allowing farmers to appeal before a cull. .............................
Last night farmers accused the government of underhand tactics by attempting to shift the blame for mishandling the eight month foot and mouth crisis away from the former ministry of agriculture. Lawyers also claimed that the new powers couldbreach the Human Rights Act. ................... . Peter and Gillian Cave, who successfully went to court in March to save 100 pedigree Devon cattle earmarked for slaughter in a contiguous cull, accused the government of "jackboot tactics". Mr Cave claimed hundreds of thousands of healthy animals had been needlessly killed. "This smacks of Nazi law, malicious and spiteful - you bloody well behave or we'll get you." Lawyers representing farmers questioned the legality of the new measures. Tim Russ, a partner in a Taunton practice, said it still had to be determined whether the disease had spread through government mismanagement or poor farming practice. He said introducing arbitrary culling without an appeals procedure could breach the EU law. ............ Nov 1

Farmers lose out on compensation
BBC

Farmers have said the Arable sector is at an all-time low Arable farmers calling on the government to claim compensation from the EU have been rebuffed. Junior food and rural affairs minister Elliot Morley cited the cost of foot-and-mouth when he announced the claim had been rejected. Elliot Morley "We have decided not to draw down these funds given the many competing demands on the Exchequer at present, not least the cost of eradicating foot-and-mouth disease". Under the terms of the compensation the government would have had to match any funds provided through EU compensation. The announcement, in a Commons written answer, came after Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott refused to be drawn on the issue as he stood in for Tony Blair during prime minister's questions. .....
Nov 1

Europe is master
Letter in Telegraph

Date: 31 October 2001 Christopher Booker, Litton, Som
SIR - Having just published a detailed analysis of the foot and mouth catastrophe ("Not the Foot and Mouth Report"), I read with particular interest your summary of the preliminary findings of the inquiry set up by Devon County Council (report, Oct 29).
Certainly, Professor Mercer has identified most of the key errors that made the Government's handling of this crisis, in his own word, so "lamentable". But it is important to recognise how many of his admirable recommendations for changes in policy are subject to the agreement of the European Commission, which has exercised ultimate control over foot and mouth policy since the 1980s. These include everything from the rules on importing food and disposal of carcasses to the use of vaccination, on which it seems, in light of the UK disaster, the Commission is already moving towards a change in policy.
Professor Mercer calls for a "national contingency plan" to ensure that such mistakes are never repeated. He should know that precisely such a detailed contingency plan already exists. It was approved by the European Commission in 1993, but has been kept firmly out of public view ever since. Can the Government explain why we are not allowed to see this document?
posted Nov 1

New laws to fight farm diseases
Farmers Weekly

THE government has unveiled proposals for new legislation to improve its handling of future foot-and-mouth outbreaks. In a bid to speed up the containment of the disease, the Animal Health Bill would force farmers to comply with orders to slaughter their livestock. Ministers believe the fight against foot-and-mouth was hampered by farmers who appealed against culls of apparently healthy animals. The new bill, announced in London on Wednesday (31 October), also contains plans to eradicate the BSE-type disease scrapie in sheep. Some scientists fear that scrapie could be masking BSE in sheep and ministers want to develop "rapid" tests to see whether this is the case. Peter Jinman, a member of the BSE advisory committee, said it was proving difficult to validate the sheep tests because they are so complex. Ministers may want to review the validation process, especially because the tests are new and there is nothing to compare them with, he said. .................. Molecular tests have been used on 465 scrapie-infected sheep brains from the current flock at the government's Veterinary Laboratory Agency. None of the samples tested positive for BSE. But the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has warned that it is still not possible to guarantee that sheep are free from BSE. It wants more technology made available so it can test more sheep in the hope of drawing a conclusion about whether the disease is in sheep.
Oct 31

Foot-and-mouth Inquiries
BBC

Just over 2,000 cases of foot-and-mouth animals were confirmed during the epidemic, yet almost 4,000,000 animals were slaughtered. The government's policy of mass culling and its refusal to vaccinate are likely to be central issues at the inquiries into the epidemic now getting under way. ......... Millions of uninfected animals were slaughtered during the mass culls The government has introduced new powers to force farmers to co-operate with the mass culling of animals in any future outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease. Some farmers asserted their right to have their animals tested before they were slaughtered, leading to delays and the spread of disease according to some scientists. .... Giant pyres to burn animal carcasses were seen as mediaeval and barbaric
The Government's response to the foot-and-mouth crisis in Devon was "lamentable", according to the county's inquiry into the outbreak. The inquiry says giant pyres used to burn animal carcasses should not be used again and the government should look again at the option of vaccination.
Cull delays made epidemic worse Many government vets were reluctant to accept the policy of mass culling More aggressive culling of livestock could have helped reduce the scale of the foot-and-mouth epidemic according to studies by two groups of scientists. The researchers say around one million fewer animals would have had to be slaughtered if the government had acted sooner on the advice received from experts.
Oct 31

New laws could speed up the culling of livestock
BBC

(warmwell note: let no one be in any doubt about the nature of this bill. It intends to wrest the last power from the hands of people who own livestock of any kind, making it illegal for them to protect their animals from government powers of slaughter. It is to be rushed through Parliament on the nod. It seems horribly likely that no one at Westminster will be awake enough to stop it.) New government powers to strengthen the fight against animal diseases are being unveiled on Wednesday. The Animal Health Bill aims to close loopholes which ministers claim have made it more difficult to eradicate both foot and mouth disease, and a BSE-type disease in sheep called scrapie. Scientists believe the fight against foot-and-mouth was weakened by farmers, who used the power of appeal against culls of apparently healthy animals on farms neighbouring confirmed outbreaks. This caused delays, making it more difficult to keep on top of the spread of the virus - and may in some cases have allowed other farms to become infected. (warmwell note: How DARE the BBC report such blatant propaganda.) Wednesday's bill proposes giving government vets and officials stronger powers to enforce the rapid culling of livestock in any future outbreak.
Scrapie fears
The bill will also step up attempts to rid the British sheep population of the brain disease scrapie. Although it has been around for hundreds of years and is not harmful to people, it has similar symptoms to BSE, linked to the fatal brain disease variant CJD in humans. (warmwell note: again, this is just disgraceful manipulation of language. There is NO proven link between BSE and CJD, let alone any evidence that sheep can develop BSE.) The fear is that scrapie could be masking BSE in sheep - it is that possibility which scientists were investigating when it was found that they had been testing cattle brains instead of sheep tissue. A voluntary scheme to breed scrapie out of sheep has had a low take-up by farmers, so the bill is expected to introduce powers for the compulsory testing programme for rams.
Huge slaughter
Those with a genetic make-up likely to produce lambs at risk from the disease would have to be slaughtered or castrated. The final element of the proposed law is to prepare for an event everyone hopes will never happen. (warmwell note: No, not "everyone". It is precisely such an excuse as this that those involved have been seeking to eradicate the sheep in this country. The supermarket barons for example, with their eyes on cheap exports will rejoice.) If it is found that BSE has in fact crossed from cattle to sheep, plans have been drawn up which could involve the slaughter of all of the 40 million sheep in Britain. This would involve a huge operation phased over several years, and powers are now being put into place to allow this to happen - hopefully they will never have to be used. (warmwell note: "hopefully", an adverb we prefer to use correctly, cannot describe the way we face the future when New Labour behave in a way that horrifies and disgusts anyone who still has any integrity and concern for social justice.)
Oct 31

From the Devon County Council Inquiry :On the use of vaccination and slaughter
Interim Report

1.10 ....We find that the Government should give greater priority to more scientific research into this area backed with appropriate funds and contracts and should initiate international co-operation on this front. It might replace totally the present methodology for preventing a future outbreak. (warmwell note: Lord Whitty had no grounds for suggesting on Farming Today yesterday that "the arguments put to the Devon Inquiry which they didn't completely accept was that at times vaccination would have been an alternative to culling" These paragraphs show that the Devon Inquiry found an urgent need to review vaccination as an alternative to culling.)
1.11 But, in the short term, the use of vaccination to contain the disease and thus reduce the pressure on the system of slaughtering and disposal must be considered.
1.12 We find that the whole question of using vaccination in the interest of temporary containment must be explored in the context of 1.10 above. DEFRA should recognise that farmers routinely inject stock regularly as part of their livestock husbandry. The ridiculous and dangerous situation brought about by attempts at last-minute training of vaccinators should never be repeated because there are clear alternatives 1.13 Reports received by the Inquiry of insensitive and even belligerent operatives and bungled culls do little to enhance the professional reputation of all those involved, from Ministers downwards. If culling on or beyond confirmed infected farms should persist then the actual process of killing animals must be handled more sensitively and more humanely.
1.14 We find that training in slaughter management is needed. It should include clear instruction in the assessment of the likely impact that slaughtering will have on farmers, their families and other witnesses. This of course will not be necessary if slaughter is discontinued in future policies. (Devon's emphasis)
Oct 31

EU fails to meet cost of foot-and-mouth disease
Financial Times

By Daniel Dombey in Brussels and Cathy Newman in London The European Commission is to give Britain less than E800m (£500m) towards the cost of foot-and-mouth - two-thirds of what the government has demanded. The taxpayer has had to pay more than £1.7bn for compensating farmers for slaughtered livestock. The government has lodged a provisional request for E1.2bn from the European Commission, Michaele Schreyer, budget commissioner said on Tuesday. The environment department said it would continue pushing for the remainder of the money. However, the Tories said they were "disillusioned with the Commission's reluctance to reimburse Britain in full". Ann Winterton, Conservative agriculture spokesman, said: "We are one of the largest contributors to the EU funds: it's a pretty poor show when the British government asks for assistance that we have been turned down in this way." ......
Oct 31

Watchdog set to investigate Maff's 'poaching' of vets
Independent

By Marie Woolf Chief Political Correspondent 31 October 2001 The Government's financial watchdog is to investigate claims that the Ministry of Agriculture diverted too many vets to the fight against foot-and-mouth, leaving abattoirs and meat factories dangerously exposed to the threat of other diseases. The National Audit Office is to follow up a complaint from the biggest supplier of vets in the country about salaries of up to £100,000 paid to recruit professionals to the fight against the epidemic. Jason Aldiss, the managing director of Evill and Jones, the country's biggest private contractor of vets, said the pay offered by the Government "was so good that our people abandoned us". Abattoirs and meat factories were severely overstretched and in some cases unable to meet the Government's own standards introduced this year to protect the public against diseases such as BSE. The investigation will assess claims that public health vets were warning the now-defunct Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Maff) on a daily basis that they were haemorrhaging staff during the crisis because of the salaries being offered by the Government. Andrew Storrar, president of the Veterinary Public Health Association, said: "Public health could have been disturbed by not having the number of people to cover. We were overwhelmed because we could not compete with these salaries. It was farcical." Downing Street was told about the dangers but vets say their pleas were ignored. Hundreds of vets saw their salaries double when they signed up to work on a daily rate for the Government, which paid up to £250 a day as well as offering perks including a car, mobile phone and free hotel accommodation. The Independent has learnt that an official complaint has been made to the inland revenue that some vets recruited from abroad left the country without paying tax. The Tories accused the Government last night of a "grotesque waste of public money" in supplying vets. Peter Ainsworth, shadow Secretary of State for the Environment, said: "Seeing them handing out money hand over fist like this is shocking." Mr Aldiss said: "From 1 April this year we were required to provide 100 per cent supervision of all fresh meat facilities including cutting plants and slaughterhouses. So we recruited 60 vets to ensure compliance. Thirty were subsequently poached by Maff. That left us extremely short-staffed and I known that other contractors were left in the same position and were unable to provide the cover required. "In future they [Maff and its successor] have to learn lessons from this. We all warned them. They knew what was happening and nobody listened at all." The Department of the Environment Food and Rural Affairs, which was created after the demise of Maff, denied that public health had been compromised by its policy of hiring vets on high rates. It said it had received no complaints from the Meat Hygiene Service which is in charge of enforcing government standards. Some 600 vets are still being paid the high rates even though there have been no cases of foot-and-mouth for the past month. But the Government is now understood to be looking at introducing fixed-term contracts for vets to save money.
Oct 31

CULLING STILL BEST CONTROL - WHITTY
Farmers Guardian

by PA News reporters (October 30, 2001)
Mass culling would remain the Government's policy in the event of a further outbreak of foot-and-mouth, in spite of the experience of this year's epidemic, Lord Whitty said today.

The food minister said he would not pre-empt the three independent inquiries being carried out into the outbreak. But he confirmed that, at present, Government policy on culling had not changed.

Lord Whitty told BBC Radio 4's Farming Today: "Policy at the moment would be to follow the successful dimensions of the strategy we have adopted so far, which is basically that the culling, as long as we match the target figures, is effective in containing the disease. "There may be other measures which could be supportive to that - measures of tighter biosecurity and control of movements and import controls - but we would at this point primarily go for culling. "At the moment, we can see vaccination being a support to culling in certain circumstances, but it is not an alternative to culling."
(Full transcript )
..(warmwell note: this makes perfect logical sense in our Brave New LabourWorld where the government is intent, and has been from the start, not on animal health and supporting British farming but on the death of both. Can there be any further doubt that its intention is to eradicate stock in Britain for the benefit of cheap imports and to pursue its own arcane designs on the wilder parts of the country?) ......
Oct 30

An epidemic of evasion
Telegraph Leader

GOVERNMENTS generally hold inquiries for three reasons: to assuage public concerns; to learn lessons from past failure; and to prevent the repetition of mistakes. By all three criteria, the case for a full public inquiry into the handling of the foot and mouth epidemic is overwhelming. It is difficult, even now, to describe the full scale of the calamity.......
In the absence of an official public inquiry, there have been two "freelance" investigations: one by Devon County Council and one by the magazine Private Eye. The European Parliament, under pressure from Conservative MEPs, looks likely to order a third. .......Private Eye, in a remarkably thorough investigation, is even more scathing. It accuses the Government of slaughtering millions of animals unnecessarily, of acting outside the law, and of setting its policy to suit Labour's election timetable. Despite a petition of more than 100,000 signatures organised by Farmers' Weekly, ministers have resolutely refused to set up a public tribunal. Instead, they have organised in-house studies with limited remits. All the key questions thus remain unanswered. When did ministers first hear of the outbreak? What action did they order? Why were they so slow to halt the movement of animals? Is it true, as we report today, that 40 per cent of the culled beasts might have been saved by more prompt action? Why were the lessons of 1967 ignored? Why were there such unconscionable delays between identification, slaughter and destruction? Why the vacillation over burning versus burial, and slaughter versus vaccination? Many country people are convinced that ministers are reluctant to allow a public inquiry for one reason: they fear it would reveal that their reaction to the disease was dictated by electoral rather than veterinary criteria. Put crudely, many farmers suspect that ministers were far more concerned with the date of the election than with eradicating the disease, and that this prejudiced their response to it. Without a full inquiry, who is to say that this suspicion is unfounded?
Oct 30

Plan now for next foot-and-mouth, ministers are told
The Times

BY ELIZABETH JUDGE
THE Government should immediately prepare a national foot-and-mouth contingency plan, according to the chairman of the only public inquiry into the outbreak. Ian Mercer, who yesterday published his preliminary findings into the handling of the epidemic in Devon, said that the Government should be "getting on with it" rather that waiting for the results of the three national inquiries. Ministers' handling of the outbreak in Devon had been "lamentable", the report said. There should be a national contingency plan that would "cascade down via region to the county, the district and the parish". The call was backed by David Hill, chairman of the Devon branch of the National Farmers' Union. Lord Whitty, the Farming Minister, admitted that the contingency plan introduced after the 1967 epidemic had not been adequate to contain this year's outbreaks and had not been widely shared with the farming community. "We do need to improve communication and be better prepared if this happens again," he said. He defended the decision not to proceed with vaccination and said that a Bill dealing with animal disease outbreaks was being prepared.( warmwell note: this may well refer to the Animal Health bill which is to be rushed through parliament under the wing of "bio-terrorism" legislation, extending powers to slaughter without owners' consent ...another bullying government sledgehammer designed to miss the nut) Professor Mercer' report accused the Government of trying to handle this year's epidemic by "poring over maps in remote offices" while ignoring the knowledge and experience of local people. The decision to burn carcasses in huge pyres was"disastrous";..........The report said that vaccination should be considered in future. Peter Ainsworth, the Shadow Secretary for Rural Affairs, said that the Government seemed keener to shirk its responsibilities than to establish why things went wrong. The Prince of Wales said yesterday that farmers would need "all the moral support possible" as winter drew in and that people should pray that the worst of the epidemic was over. Visiting Dartmoor National Park Authority for its 50th anniversary, he said that as he had watched the epidemic unfold "the frustration was not being able to do enough to help but having to witness so many people having to go though what must be complete hell". The Prince gave £500,000 to help farmers at the height of the outbreak.
Oct 30

Government admits errors handling foot-and-mouth
Financial Times

The government on Monday admitted there had been "communication problems" over plans to combat the foot-and-mouth outbreak, after an inquiry by Devon County Council said the government's handling of the affair was "lamentable". Lord Whitty, farming minister, said that while plans were in place to deal with an outbreak, they were not disseminated fully. He said: "The contingency plan was not sufficiently shared with stakeholders [the farming community]...future contingency plans for this and other outbreaks should be shared more widely and tested." Professor Ian Mercer, whose report into Devon's outbreak was published on Monday, urged the government to prepare an immediate contingency plan: "Nothing should delay it...they should be getting on with it now". ........................ It also criticised the way in which government officials treated individuals and communities, a charge which Lord Whitty acknowledged. "There were...insensitivities in the beginning. That is not a criticism of our staff but we do need to be improve communication and be better prepared if it happens again," he added. (warmwell note: Would Lord Whitty classify as "insensitivities" the physical beating up of a Devon farmer by policemen when he attempted to stand between his stock and the slaughter teams? Would he use the adjective "insensitive" to describe the behaviour of those who caused the horrors at Knowstone?) Professor Mercer also said vaccination must be considered to contain any future outbreak. However, Lord Whitty defended the government's decision not to proceed with a vaccination programme. He said: "I think it is important to say that throughout the disease the government has been prepared to look at it, but it [vaccination] was important to get the support of farmers in Devon and it was clear that we didn't have the sort of support to implement it". (warmwell note: and who was asked?)
Oct 30

Re: Touching the surface
Telegraph Letter

SIR - Margaret Beckett talks of working in partnership with the farming community to achieve a 14 per cent reduction in ammonia emissions by 2010. She must be well pleased with herself for reaching her target some nine years in advance - or has no one told her that her department has successfully removed something close to that percentage of animals during the foot and mouth crisis?

SIR - I am amazed at the ignorance of the agriculture industry displayed by Margaret Beckett (letter, Oct 26). She suggests that farmers should plough in manure, rather than simply spreading it, as this reduces emissions of ammonia. ...........Unfortunately, cattle lift their tails several times a day, producing unimaginable quantities of manure every winter. Most farms do not have sufficient land under the plough to dispose of one winter's manure in the manner suggested by the minister. Dare I suggest that more ammonia is emitted by the large agri-businesses favoured by Lord Whitty than by smaller family farms, particularly those which have opted for an organic system of production? Perhaps attention should first be paid to the artificial fertiliser industry, or is the Government wary of upsetting large chemical companies? Agriculture is a very complex industry, and any minister who thinks she can tackle any one of its problems in isolation is extremely naive.
Oct 29

MPs renew calls for virus inquiry
Farmers Weekly

OPPOSITION MPs have renewed calls for a public inquiry into foot-and-mouth following the publication of the Devon report into the crisis The preliminary report from the Devon foot-and-mouth inquiry proves the need for a full public inquiry into the epidemic, they said. The report, published on Monday (29 October) brands the government's handling of the crisis as lamentable. Shadow Rural Affairs Secretary Peter Ainsworth said it was probable that shortcomings identified in Devon had been repeated elsewhere. "It is disgraceful that the Government seems more set on running away from its own responsibilities than on establishing what went wrong and why." The government's half-hearted participation in the Devon inquiry was an insult to thousands of people who had suffered, said Mr Ainsworth. Refusing to hold a full inquiry would only deepen the sense of anger felt by millions across the whole of the country, he said. Lib Dem Rural Affairs spokesman Malcolm Bruce said it was ironic that farmers were more comfortable dealing with the army than the government. ..........
Oct 29

Farmer burns flag in food protest
Farmers Weekly

By FWi staff
A BRITISH farmer burned an American flag in protest at global food policies which, he claims, are driving small producers out of business. Hector Christie, a pig farmer from North Devon, burned the flag during a protest before 50 protestors in Gloucestershire on Saturday (27 October). Mr Christie from Tapely Farm, near Bideford, said: "Small farmers are being crushed beneath globally-centred economics and loaded legislation" Low prices had forced Mr Christie to kill 11 piglets. Even giving away the animals would have cost him £150 in vet bills and £55 in transport costs. Mr Christie said he burned the American flag in response to World Trade Organisation rules which were hurting small farmers. "We are currently killing thousands of animals per day because we can't move or sell them while exports roll in by the lorry load," he said. "We incinerate or bury our healthy animals while Afghans starve." The Marquess of Worcester, formerly TV actress Tracey Ward, also warned that global food policies were killing Britain's small farmers She was cheered as she spoke from the bandstand in Gloucester Park, Gloucester, before marching on the city's Shire Hall. (warmwell note: interesting that the Farmers Weekly report this so inaccurately. Hector was dissuaded from burning the flag and, although the day was not at all thought a disappointment, the march did not in fact take place. The rest of the report is correct.) Farmers are being strangled by supermarkets who buy food from abroad rather than using healthy produce grown on their doorstep, she said. The 42-year-old marquess, who lives on the Badminton Estate, now works as an ecologist supporting local farmers. Among the marchers were Cornish farmer Simon Burbage and Gloucestershire farmer Sue Osbourne. Mr Burbage said: "Quite why we need to go to Afghanistan to fight terrorism I don't know. We have a terrorist called Tony Blair in Whitehall." "He has shown a total disregard for every rural issue." Mrs Osbourne said: "Foot-and-mouth has been swept under the carpet so Tony Blair can get on with his war."
Oct 29

F&M staff paid bonuses despite concerns
icWales

By Jamie Lyons, PA
Bonuses were paid to Welsh Assembly staff handling the foot-and-mouth crisis -despite the finance minister's ''great reservations'' about such rewards, it emerged today. Edwina Hart said Assembly officials had been rewarded for their exceptional work during the outbreak. Mrs Hart told today's plenary session: ''Bonus payments were given to Assembly staff involved in foot-and-mouth as recognition of what happened in that period.'' The revelation came minutes after Mrs Hart told AMs of her objection to such payments. ''I personally have very great reservations about the effectiveness of any performance bonuses,'' she said. (warmwell note: Yes, we have too. And in this case, we cannot help but wonder what "performance" was thought worthy of such reward while welsh farmers continue to struggle painfully under restrictions and hardships brought about by these servants of the government. While the Devon report describes the policy as "lamentable" and remarks, "Reports of insensitive and even belligerent operatives and bungled culls do little to enhance the professional reputation of those involved, from ministers downwards" we have to wonder for what services exactly these bonuses in Wales were paid. )
The minister said in certain cases bonus payments were justified. But she said she had concerns about the manipulation of some systems of performance-related pay........
posted Oct 29

Government 'lamentable' over foot and mouth
Telegraph

By Richard Savill
A REPORT into the foot and mouth crisis today describes the Government's handling of the epidemic as "lamentable". The report, the outcome of the only independent public inquiry into the outbreak, finds fault with almost every aspect of the Government's approach. It accuses the Government and its agencies of "insensitive treatment" of ordinary individuals and communities, and none of those involved escapes criticism. It says: "Reports received by the inquiry of insensitive and even belligerent operatives and bungled culls do little to enhance the professional reputation of all those involved, from ministers downwards. "If culling on or beyond confirmed infected farms should persist then the actual process of killing animals must be handled more sensitively and more humanely." The report says the contiguous cull policy "appeared to have been implemented by officials poring over maps in remote offices, so that only holdings were considered, not the topography, the disposition of animals upon it, nor the distances between them." The 20-page report makes 31 recommendations and is the result of this month's five-day public inquiry chaired by Prof Ian Mercer into the outbreak in Devon, one of the worst-affected counties. In his foreword, Prof Mercer, 68, the former secretary general of Association of National Park Authorities, says it is "already clear that the outbreak and the handling of the ensuing crisis was lamentable". The report goes on to say that there should be an immediate ban on animal movements on the first day of any future outbreak. The inquiry heard that the Government's delay between announcing the first case and stopping all animal movements meant hundreds of thousands of sheep were moved, spreading the disease across the country. The report also says that vaccination must be considered to help the temporary containment of any future epidemic. It calls for a national contingency plan, such as that produced for maritime pollution response by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency. The report adds that situations arose in Devon where "the insensitive treatment of ordinary individuals and communities confronted by events outside their control did nothing to foster a united front or provide community leadership against the common enemy - the disease itself". Lessons that should have been learned from the 1967 outbreak did not appear to have been implemented and "recommendations of the official report into that outbreak were ignored". The inquiry was set up by Devon County Council, with all-party support, and the inquiry team, which heard 50 witnesses and received written submissions from another 300, comprised seven county and district councillors.
The Government has announced three inquiries into the foot and mouth crisis, but unlike Devon, it has rejected demands from the farming community to hear evidence in public.
Prof Mercer has sent his preliminary findings - a full report is to be published later this year - to Tony Blair, Lord Haskins, the Government's rural recovery co-ordinator, and Lord Whitty, the minister responsible for co-ordinating Defra evidence to the foot and mouth inquiries.
Oct 29

Plan to vaccinate cattle 'vetoed' Ex-minister says food lobby barred foot and mouth policy
Guardian

Peter Hetherington, regional affairs editor
The government came close to authorising the limited vaccination of livestock in an attempt to curb the spread of foot and mouth over six months ago, the former minister of agriculture revealed yesterday. But it had been unable to go ahead because of opposition from the food industry, he claimed.
In a frank assessment of Whitehall's shortcomings in the midst of the epidemic, Nick Brown, who frequently faced the wrath of angry farmers, came close to questioning the government's strategy and hinted it could have been tougher. While avoiding directly criticising Downing Street's role in taking over the day-to-day management of disease control, he acknowledged there was a strong argument for vaccinating cattle soon after foot and mouth broke out.
Earlier his former special adviser said the government was singularly ill-prepared for the epidemic and was playing "catch-up" from day one. Mr Brown's comments, to the BBC's North of Westminster programme, will fuel demands for a public inquiry into the crisis, which has led to the slaughter of 5m animals - the majority healthy - and 2,030 confirmed cases of the disease. It has cost the government at least £1bn in compensation to farmers alone. Since leaving the Ministry of Agriculture for a more junior post in the Department of Work and Pensions, Mr Brown had kept his counsel, although political allies feel he was badly treated by Downing Street and received little recognition for his work at the former ministry.
His intervention comes as the findings of the first unofficial inquiry, published today, criticise the government's "lamentable" handling of the epidemic. Organised by Devon county council in protest at the government's failure to hold its own public investigation, the inquiry speaks of "carnage by computer" undertaken by insensitive "and even belligerent" operatives and of "bungled culls". Mr Brown, a former government chief whip and ally of the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, told the BBC: "I think there was a good case for vaccination and I explored it very fully indeed. The key difficulty was that there was no guarantee that the public would buy the milk from vaccinated animals or eat the meat from cattle which had been vaccinated. The retailers said there is consumer resistance, we will not stock the product." His admission follows a Guardian investigation earlier this year which revealed minutes of a high-level Whitehall meeting when, according to participants, limited vaccination was agreed and then vetoed by the food industry. Kieron Simpson, former special adviser to Mr Brown, said the Ministry of Agriculture had not appreciated the speed at which modern farming methods spread the disease. When the disease first struck, at the end of February, the ministry assumed it was dealing with "just a couple of cases". "The virus had a head start and we were left playing catch-up," he said last week. "No one appreciated the extent of sheep movements or how far the disease had spread. It was only when we became aware of the sheer scale of the problem that it became clear for everyone that the department did not have the resources or people to cope with it." In the Devon inquiry report, Professor Ian Mercer, who chaired the hearing, criticised the new Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs for refusing to take part. The report is scathing about the official response to foot and mouth, government indifference to the plight of rural communities, and the use of huge pyres to dispose of animals. "The crisis that a major outbreak generates is not an excuse for the government and its agencies to override the welfare of individuals or communities or to ignore the long-established rules for the management of the environment."
Oct 29

Ministers 'bungled' handling of disease

BY A CORRESPONDENT
THE Government's handling of the foot-and-mouth emergency has been condemned as "lamentable" by a report from the only public inquiry to have been held into the epidemic. The preliminary report of the Devon hearing into the foot-and-mouth epidemic, published today, calls for a national contingency plan to respond to any future outbreak. The panel finished its hearing earlier this month in Exeter after hearing from 50 witnesses and considering more than 360 submissions. Its chairman, Ian Mercer, says in his foreword to the report that the decision by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs not to attend the inquiry had been "deplored by many". Professor Mercer says it was clear "that the outbreak and handling of the crisis was lamentable". The document adds: "Reports of insensitive and even belligerent operatives and bungled culls do little to enhance the professional reputation of those involved, from ministers downwards."
Oct 29

National plan called for to combat foot-and-mouth outbreaks
Ananova

A national contingency plan to respond to any future foot-and-mouth outbreak is being called for. The plea comes in a report from the only public inquiry into the outbreak. The preliminary report of the Devon hearing brands the handling of the crisis as "lamentable". It adds that a plan should "cascade" down via the region to parish level, and should be reviewed, tested and rehearsed up to every five years. The report says: "We find that in the field there would best be a military command, with police, environmental and veterinary aides at its side from day one of an outbreak." Among the suggestions are:
The tightening of import controls on meat and livestock products - with new legislation if necessary Greater Government priority into more scientific research into vaccination An immediate ban on animal movements from day one of any future outbreak An end to the use of large scale pyres to dispose of livestock corpses.
See also BBC report
Oct 29

Export delay frustrates farmers
BBC

The EU has raised restrictions on the export of pig meat Farmers have expressed disappointment that the government has failed to implement regulations allowing British meat to be exported to Europe for the first time since the foot-and-mouth crisis began. Exports should have started a week ago after the European Union (EU) lifted the ban on the export of pig meat from animals raised in counties completely free of foot-and-mouth. .............. Last week Margaret Beckett said she was unaware of any difficulties starting exports. But officials at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) admit it could still be a few more days before British meat can be imported into Europe. It appears the stringent licensing system demanded by the committee is far from being in place. A spokesman for the Meat and Livestock Commission said there were already thousands of pounds worth of orders from Europe waiting to be filled.
Oct 29

MP says bio-terrorists could be behind foot-and-mouth
Ananova

An MP says that foot-and-mouth disease may have been introduced to Britain by terrorists as a biological attack. The claim comes from Bruce George, the chairman of the House of Commons defence select committee. He says the idea is "very possible", although he does not think it likely.
(warmwell note: "bio terrorists" were behind the foot and mouth policy all right; unfortunately they were not fanatic foreigners but part of our own so-called establishment. The catastrophe might be a little less hard to bear if this were not the case.) He told Radio Five Live's Late Night Currie show: "If it is possible to open a letter and then be contaminated with anthrax it is possible, although I do not think at this stage it is likely, that foot-and-mouth was a deliberate attempt to destroy animals and human beings. "I think it is being considered." He made his comments during a phone-in on the programme.
Oct 29

Sheep slaughter to eradicate scrapie
Independent

26 October 2001 The Government is proposing new powers that would allow the slaughter of millions of sheep if scrapie is found to be widespread in the UK's flocks. The Animal Health Bill is to be introduced within weeks as ministers prepare plans to test the entire sheep population for their susceptibility to the brain disease. The Bill, which will also allow more extensive testing for BSE, will to try to prevent a repetition of the scandal surrounding the handling of the foot-and-mouth epidemic. Experts fear that scrapie could be linked with BSE, although this has not been proven. However, sheep shown to be at great risk are certain to be shot. That is bound to prove unpopular with struggling sheep farmers who have seen prices slide to rock bottom levels in recent years. "This is just another kick in the teeth to an industry that is so far down on the ground it is lucky to get up again," said Janet George of Countryside Action Network. "There is still no proof positive that BSE came from scrapie."
posted Oct 29

There You Go Again, Monsanto
Gene Watch

Commentary by Martin Teitel ....... the new management at Monsanto has been working to portray the biotech giant as a kinder and gentler behemoth. Earlier this year, however, Monsanto reverted to form in its dogged prosecution of a fifth-generation Canadian farm family. Septuagenarian Percy Schmeiser is a fifth-generation Canadian farmer. At the end of March, a Canadian judge ordered Schmeiser to pay Monsanto $85,000as a penalty for growing Monsanto's herbicide resistant canola without the company's permission. On top of the $200,000 he has already spent on his court battle, the cost of the inevitable appeal, and his counter suit against Monsanto, Schmeiser is facing financial ruin. ..... Essentially Monsanto was awarded payment for its contamination of the farmer's crops, whether by dropped seeds or pollen drifting in the wind........ It is as if a judge held people who had been contaminated by Monsanto's PCBs liable for the cost of the chemicals, or if a soft drink company tried to charge for its product, having found an empty container on a front lawn. ..................The 1.4 billion small farmers in the world's poorest countries rely on seed saving for their lives and livelihoods. Agribusiness companies and trade reps from the US and other northern countries have long wanted to find ways to jostle subsistence farmers off their delicate balance of self-sufficiency, in order to create a dependence on imported seeds, fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, petroleum products to pump water, and other accoutrements of modern agriculture. This concerted effort to create dependency, which the outside experts describe in terms of increasing crop yield, alleviating starvation and harmonizing laws, has been tried before. The Green Revolution managed to increase both crop yields and starvation by pushing high-input hybrid monocultures. At its core was an effort to get farmers out of the traditional barter and subsistence system into mainstream commerce and the international agricultural commodities trade. The new push for biotech crops in the third world follows a very similar pattern. It attempts to disrupt traditional means of obtaining food in favor of creating dependencies on imported seeds and chemicals. Central in this scheme is the enforcement of prohibitions on seed saving, the fundamental threat to agricultural bio-colonialism. This larger struggle for global agricultural hegemony might well be the underlying motive behind Monsanto's suit against Schmeiser, and the scores of similar actions still in court. While the immediate victim of this unjust decision is a gentle farmer from Canada, the real target might well be far poorer and vulnerable small farmers in Zimbabwe, Colombia, and other countries around the third world.
posted Oct 28

Christopher Booker's Diary
Sunday Telegraph

After the BBC, the deluge WHAT a comical muddle our metrication fanatics so often get into about the object of their infatuation. Last Sunday a reader, Paul Holyoak, noted a BBC Ceefax item on the day's floods. The Environment Agency had reported a deluge in Braintree, Essex. "after 60 to 70 millilitres of rain fell between 3am and 9am". As Mr Holyoak comments "12-14 teaspoonfuls of rain a deluge? How did they measure it?" (warmwell note: the Environment Agency, run by Baroness Young, seems to us to be as potentially damaging as Defra in its bullying and restrictive proposals. To discover that they can't tell a millilitre from a centimetre is not unlike the inablity to tell a cow from a sheep - and as deeply worrying for the rest of us.)
Oct 28

One man's meat - From cows to humans
Sunday Times

The powerful hydraulic ram was able to pulp entire cattle skeletons in minutes. Flesh and bone were crushed and then sieved through industrial filters to produce a pungent black slurry. It was neither pretty nor appetising, but for the directors at Scotbeef Ltd it was a sight to behold - their chance to carve themselves a slice of the huge profits to be made in the cheap meat revolution. ...........Although no direct link has yet been established, independent scientists believe that beef MRM made from BSE- infected cattle was responsible for the emergence of new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (nvCJD) in humans, which has claimed at least 107 lives in Britain since the first reported death in 1995.....
(warmwell note: Modern scientists involved in the food or medicine business produce findings that are not a result of a search for scientific truth but rather in favour of the interests of their backers. This use of the unexpected adjective "independent" here is significant; perhaps these unnamed scientists had a source of independent funding? We would be interested to know which scientists are referred to here. It seems likely that the Sunday Times means the scientists of the FSA and SEAC. Their "independence" however appears to be underwritten by the Wellcome Trust)
............ The controversy over the foot and mouth outbreak and the potential spread of BSE to sheep have further eroded public confidence in livestock farming and British meat. Additionally, only last week the government was accused of trying to conceal the embarrassing fact that a four-year study which cost taxpayers more than £200,000 was worthless because of a mix-up between the brains of sheep and cows. The FSA was meant to be in the vanguard of the new changes, but it seems that the lethargy which earlier afflicted the former Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has wafted down the corridors of the FSA. Its failure to determine which companies used MRM in which products has added to the injury suffered by families such as the Fyfes. "You can't begin to realise what it's like,"said Paula Fyfe. "I hope nobody else goes through what I went through, but I don't think that will be the case. "It's hard to blame anyone for what happened to Graham, but if it wasn't for greed and the desire to make as much money as possible, he might still be alive."
Oct 28

£1bn bill, 1.5m animals culled
The Journal

The foot-and-mouth crisis has cost the North-East £1bn, the lives of 1.5m animals and left the rural economy in tatters. On the first day of our investigation, on Wednesday, a key adviser to former agriculture minister Nick Brown admitted Maff had neither the staff nor resources to deal with the crisis and had been "playing catch-up" from the very first day We revealed yesterday how the Government's culling policy may have increased the spread of the virus The Journal's call for an independent public inquiry into the cause and handling of the foot-and-mouth crisis now has 24,230 supporters Mr Blair's government has announced three separate inquiries - none public Look out next week for a petition form in The Journal
Oct 28

Left to bear the scars for decades to come
The Journal

At first glance, it looks like many other places in the heart of the Northumberland countryside - small close-knit villages clustered round one another, a dotting of farms amid the open fields, and the occasional reminders of a once-thriving coal industry.

But the area around the villages of Widdrington and nearby Widdrington Station have something which makes it different It has been left to bear the scars of an agricultural catastrophe for decades to come, a legacy which haunts every person living there and which has sown the seeds of fear for their own and their children's health in years to come

Six long months at the forefront of foot-and-mouth disposal operations - a burial pit and a pyre site - has seen the community change irreversibly Where there has always been a resilient cheerfulness and willingness to accept adversity, a trait learned the hard way during the tough days of the coalmines, there is now also a deep distrust of authority
posted Oct 28

Legal challenge to disease handling
BBC

The government is to be sued by a group of Welsh businessmen over its handling of the foot-and-mouth epidemic. The group is bringing its case under the Human Rights Act, claiming the decision to effectively close down the countryside has deprived them of their ability to make a living. They accuse the government of failing to consider non-agricultural rural businesses in its efforts to protect the farming industry. A London law firm is putting together their case. Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, chairman of the Powys Rural Business Campaign Ian Mitchell said: "We have taken instructions from solicitors concerning issues affecting our members under the Human Rights Act and feel the government have discriminated against the businesses run by our members. There is a series of bungles, incompetence and even indifference as far as we are concerned Ian Mitchell, Powys Rural Business Campaign "They have deprived them of their ability to use their property and make a living by their handling of the disease. "They shut down the countryside without any thought of the consequences to the businesses involved deeply with the countryside. ..... Solicitors believe the Powys-based group, which represents 500 businesses, can sue the government for exceeding their powers by allegedly closing off roads and giving bad advice. News of the Welsh business group's legal case coincided with protest action in Gloucestershire on Saturday. Farmers marched on Shire Hall in Gloucester to demand a full inquiry into the foot-and-mouth epidemic. They are unhappy with government imposed movement restrictions, which they claim are forcing them to slaughter animals which are ready for market. During the demonstration, the Marquess of Worcester gave a defiant speech urging the government to change its global policy that she claims is killing Britain's small farmers. The marquess, known fomerly as TV actress Tracey Ward, said: "Britain's small farmers are under the strangle hold of major supermarket chains, who buy in food from abroad rather than using the healthy produce grown on their doorstep." She claimed 80% of government subsidies to aid foot-and-mouth recovery was going to 20% of the largest farmers as they were the only ones deemed capable of competing globally. Devon pig farmer Hector Christie said: "Small farmers are being crushed beneath globally-centred economics and loaded legislation." .....
Oct 27

Beckett slammed for blaming farmers over foot and mouth
News Wales

Rural affairs Minister Margaret Beckett was strongly criticised by the Farmers Union of Wales today for blaming farmers for prolonging the foot and mouth outbreak yet refusing to hold a public inquiry into the crisis. "It really is a bit rich for Mrs Beckett to suggest that farmers are to blame and, at the same time, ignore mounting demands for her to hold a public inquiry," said FUW President Bob Parry. During a two-hour grilling, Mrs Beckett told the Commons committee on environment, food and rural affairs last week delays in slaughtering were the main cause of the outbreak being prolonged. She accused farmers of arguing over the level of compensation and resisting culling - leaving animals alive too long after the 24-hour deadline set by experts to prevent the spread of infection. "If Mrs Beckett truly believes that is the case then, surely, she would want the facts to be out in the open for the entire agricultural industry and the general public to see for themselves who really is to blame for these delays. "The FUW is perfectly happy for all these matters to be considered at a public inquiry so what is the motive behind Mrs Becketts support for three independent inquiries, all held in private?" said Mr Parry. "Her explanation that a public inquiry will take too long is just not good enough. She says she wants answers now. So does the FUW and all those affected by the outbreak. "But there is not much point holding inquiries behind closed doors and bringing out carefully-worded reports which, for all we know, will not get to the heart of how the Government handled the crisis," added Mr Parry. He also complained about Mrs Becketts negative attitude towards the future of the industry when she addressed the Commons committee. "She said it would be a miracle if the Autumn and Winter pass without more cases of foot and mouth. "She predicted restrictions would continue for a very considerable time even without new outbreaks and that it will be months before meat exports could resume. She certainly gives the impression that there is more doom and gloom still to come. "That is not the attitude of the FUW and the industry as a whole who are looking far more positively to the future. Its a shame that the person in charge of promoting this recovery does not share the same optimism."
Oct 27

Water authority to end sheep farming
BBC

The authority is reviewing its non-core operations One of Scotland's largest sheep farms is to be cleared of its 8,000 livestock because of a cost cutting drive by a water authority. West of Scotland Water, which owns the Loch Katrine farm in the Trossachs, said the move would also reduce the risk of infection to Glasgow's water supply. The water authority said the 9,500 hectare farm and another smaller neighbouring farm, at Craigdarroch near Afton, had both failed to make a profit in recent years and were no longer viable. West of Scotland Water said it was also concerned about the risk of contamination from sheep droppings - the authority was fearful of an outbreak of cryptosporidiosis, an infection of the intestines which can lead to diarrhoea, cramps and vomiting.
Oct 27

BSE tests.."total confusion" says Cambridge professor Ferguson-Smith
Farming Today

Listen to the last section of the Farming Today summary today in which Professor Ferguson-Smith reveals the utter confusion surrounding the tests on sheep - both those that have already been carried out that he describes as "flawed" in ways that go beyond the obvious muddle over samples and those that it is proposed to carry out now. As it is explained on the programme, using the so-called threat from possible BSE as an excuse to eradicate sheep not showing scrapie resistance is a nonsense - since it has been shown that resistance to scrapie makes no difference to a sheep's susceptibility to artificially induced "BSE" infection in the laboratory. In addition, Mrs Beckett has said that Professor Collinge's test is unvalidated and too difficult: Professor King says it is already being used. Where can the truth be found in any of this?
Oct 27

EU set to lift curbs on British lamb exports
Western Daily Press

THE European Commission is to lift the ban on British lamb exports - to stop the Continent running out of meat. With lamb prices rocketing across the Channel, officials are desperate to see British carcasses shipped to Europe again. They fear the market could shrink permanently if the shelves stay empty. All meat exports from Britain were halted within days of the foot-and-mouth outbreak being confirmed in February. Some pork and bacon is now being sent abroad from areas which have remained clear of the disease. And Commission officials are currently dismantling restrictions even further to allow meat to be exported from previously infected areas, which have now been cleared under the latest blood tests. Beef was given the theoretical all-clear on Wednesday, though carcasses still cannot be sent to France, which is maintaining its unilateral ban. The European Court is expected to rule this illegal in the next few weeks. However with the only plant in England approved for the export trade isolated by foot-and-mouth controls in Cornwall, just one abattoir - in Scotland - will be able to start shipping. But the impetus now is to restart the lamb trade to ease chronic shortages on the Continent. Deprived of supplies from Britain, lambs are fetching anything between £80 and £100 each  but stocks are now running dangerously low....... EU vets and scientific advisors are being called to a meeting early next month to decide whether to give British lamb exports clearance. EC officials fear that unless supplies to the shops can be restarted either customers will get out of the habit of buying and eating lamb, or importers will look to poor-quality meat from third-world countries with the attendant risk of importing disease at the same time.
SEE ALSO

Big step forward for beef exports
Journal

British beef exports to Europe have been given the all clear to start again and the list of counties able to export pigmeat has been extended following a decision by the European Standing Veterinary Committee. The decision follows pressure by the Meat and Livestock Commission, Defra officials and other British industry organisations to get exports fully reopened for British pigmeat, beef and lamb following the foot-and-mouth outbreak However, the beef still has to be processed under the Date Based Export Scheme, part of the UK's BSE controls This means there will still be no exports from England and Wales because of the location of the current DBES facilities
Oct 27

RURAL RECOVERY CASH DISAPPOINTING SAYS MP
Hexham Courant

TYNEDALE community leaders have slammed Government chiefs after a recommended £40 million package to aid the country's rural recovery programme was slashed to just £2 million for the North-East. The sum is the lowest to be granted to any area of the country following the announcement of the latest round of Government aid packages in the wake of foot-and-mouth. The £40 million recommendation to extend the Business Recovery Fund was made by the Government's own rural recovery co-ordinator Lord Haskins in a report published last week. However, the figure was cut to just £24 million by rural affairs secretary Margaret Beckett, meaning the North-East will be left with just £2 million to aid its beleaguered economy. Just £1.5 million is being contributed by Central Government funds, with the rest coming from regional development agency ONE Northeast.......
Oct 27

"Free DEFRA guide to help the confused"
Farmers Weekly

To help puzzled individuals and their scientist colleagues, who cannot tell the difference between the brains of cattle and sheep. FW are providing a free guide and hope our handy hints will help them distinguish between the key farm animal plant species commonly found in the British countryside. But why not give DEFRA a helping hand yourself and post or fax our guide to its regional offices throughout the country? The dept obviously needs all the help it can get....
Oct 26

Cull `may have aided spread of the disease' Oct 26 2001

Cull `may have aided spread of the disease'
Journal

A controversial decision by the Government to cull millions of healthy animals may have aided the spread of foot-and-mouth disease, it was claimed last night Instead of halting the spread of the disease, farming leaders say the huge increase in the number of carcases as a result of the "firebreak" cull created a bottleneck in the system and actually slowed down the process The volume of animals meant that Maff officials working on the ground were unable to meet the 24-hour/48-hour deadline for the slaughter and disposal of animals Robert Robinson, chairman of the National Beef Association, said: "There is clear evidence that the number of cases had already peaked when cattle were suddenly included in the contiguous cull "We think the industry needs answers on whether this slowed down diagnosis and pushed the culling of many infected animals outside the 24-hour target limit, extending the life of the epidemic.......Speaking during an MPs' investigation into the crisis, Mrs Beckett dismissed long-suffering farmers as "never a happy bunch of bunnies" obsessed with blaming their woes on the Government Attacking calls for a public inquiry, she claimed farmers had prolonged the epidemic through their awkwardness in resisting the cull and for "arguing" over the valuation of stock David Smith, a farmer at Haydon Bridge and chairman of the National Sheep Association, says people are furious at what Mrs Beckett said "This is typical of today's blame culture," he said. "The bottom line is the Government was in charge. Since when have they ever listened to the farmers? What the industry needs right now is support and action, not to be blamed for a disease which has devastated our livelihood.....
Oct 26

Wide-ranging support for public inquiry into FMD crisis Oct 26 2001
The Journal

The Journal's call for an independent public inquiry into the cause and handling of the foot-and-mouth crisis has wide-ranging support. Conservative Penrith and the Border MP David Maclean is among a clutch of politicians from all parties who wants to see a public inquiry He said: "I have called for a full, free and independent inquiry into all aspects of foot- and-mouth. We cannot have a whitewash job that pins the blame on an individual and takes the focus away from Maff.
Robert Foster, chairman of the National Beef Association and based in Northumberland, said: "......... A public inquiry is vital to make sure we learn from our mistakes and ensure they don't happen again.
Newcastle North Labour MP Doug Henderson said: " ... I don't think the public will be satisfied with an internal inquiry and I wouldn't be either.
Peter Atkinson, Conservative MP for Hexham, said: "Are they afraid there will be serious criticism of the Government for moving too slowly at the start of the epidemic?
Alan Beith, Liberal Democrat MP for Berwick, said: "I think a fully independent public inquiry is essential to establish what happened and learn some lessons, particularly in terms of the mistakes that were made..
.......... Ponteland farmer Ian Williamson wants to know how foot-and-mouth got on to his farm when there have been no animal movements on to his land for more than a year "There are just so many questions that still need to be answered," he said
Oct 26

Action call on illegal imports
The Journal

Experts are warning that the UK could be hit with another foot-and-mouth-like disease within five years unless action is taken over imported meat. Thousands of tonnes of illegal meat is smuggled into the country every year, hidden in luggage or in one of the 2.5 million food containers that enter the UK each year. Despite the size of the problem, health inspectors at air and ferry ports have no powers to search people's bags or confiscate any illegal products that are handed over to them. Mike Young, of the Association of Airport Health Authorities, said the Government must address the problem or face yet another national crisis.

Ministers plan ram cull in scrapie fight
Farmers Weekly

By Alistair Driver RAMS susceptible to scrapie will be culled or castrated under government plans to regain confidence after the fiasco surrounding its BSE tests. Ministers have prepared an Animal Health Bill which aims to accelerate the National Scrapie Plan and breed the disease out of the national flock. The Bill, to be introduced within weeks, would give the government powers to remove genotypes of sheep susceptible to scrapie from the national flock. Scrapie eradication started this summer on a voluntary basis open only to registered pedigree-sheep flock owners. But only 4700 farmers - 30% of those eligible - have signed up, and the government is considering opening it to non-registered pedigree flocks. The intention is to force farmers to have sheep tested for scrapie resistance, said the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. A spokesman for the department added: "Any rams that are susceptible will be castrated or slaughtered." John Thorley, chief executive of the National Sheep Association said it would be a mixed blessing if every susceptible sheep were eradicated. "It will have some advantage as long as it does not take out too many sheep that have important merits for commercial purposes."
Oct 26

NOT THE FOOT AND MOUTH report
Private Eye

"Everything Tony Blair didn't want you to know about the biggest blunder of his premiership." Extract: ..the inside story of how the Blair government's handling of this crisis became a chapter of maladministration without parallel, involving: * the illegal destruction of millions of healthy animals * handing over direction of strategy to scientists without any expretise in animal diseasea * lawbreaking by government officials on an unprecedented scale * the massaging of official figures to support Tony Blair's election plans ( - but please buy a copy.)

Had the government heeded advice from the world's top foot and mouth experts, the epidemic could have been halted within weeks, restoring the UK's export trade sooner, saving rural communities from despair and britain's counytryside froma financial, social and environmental disaster.
On sale from 26th October at UK newsagents. Overseas customers may order direct on +44 (0)20 7228 0425.
Oct 26

BSE test on sheep to be used after 5-year delay
Telegraph

A 48-HOUR test for BSE in sheep which was first recommended to the Government five years ago by one of its most distinguished independent advisers is to be used to establish once and for all whether the disease is in the national sheep flock. Prof David King, the Government's chief scientific adviser, said that molecular strain typing tests would be used on large numbers of sheep. "I am rather confident that using this fast technique we will be able to gather a significant amount data in a short time," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme. The decision follows the Government's attempt to establish whether BSE had crossed into sheep, which was abandoned after four years when it was discovered that scientists had been testing cattle brains. Prof John Collinge of Imperial College, London, director of the Medical Research Council's prion unit, who discovered that variant CJD was the human form of BSE, recommended that the Government used his test method as long ago as 1996. When nothing happened, Prof Collinge wrote to Labour ministers in 1999 urging them again to test the national sheep herd using his method. He said yesterday: "It sounds like they are now using it." (warmwell note: so where are the rapid reaction tests for foot and mouth that have similarly been languishing in the wings? It seems as though the excuse that validation takes so lang can be abandoned when it suits the government to do so.)
Oct 26

Epidemic of human BSE 'may be at its peak' By Roger Highfield, Science Editor
Telegraph

THE epidemic of "human BSE", which has killed more than 100 people, may be at its peak, according to an analysis published today. Since 1996, when variant CJD was first linked to eating BSE-infected beef, the public has worried about the size of the resulting epidemic. (warmwell note: linked as an idea, not proved as a cause. Our old friends, the modellers, are making very expensive guesses here and dressing them up as serious science) The answer has been elusive because, although almost one million infected animals were eaten between 1980 and 1996, no one knows how many people became infected or how long it takes for symptoms to develop. Prof Peter Smith's team at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine predicts today that there will be no more than "several thousand" cases. Four years ago, the team predicted more than 100,000. Uncertainties plague this projection. Prof Smith's reassuring conclusion is questioned by Prof Roy Anderson and colleagues at Imperial College who believe the number of victims will be substantially higher......
Oct 26

Virus rules to be further relaxed
Farmers Weekly

A FURTHER relaxation of foot-and-mouth regulations is expected to prevent the collapse of the autumn breeding programme. The government is set to announce a series of changes to the autumn movement controls in England and Wales early next week. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs was unable to say when the changes will be introduced. But some or all of the changes are likely to be announced on Monday or Tuesday (29-30 October), she added. The government plans to allow male breeding animals to be moved into designated high-risk counties and infected areas from lower-risk counties. Cattle, sheep and pigs will be allowed into high-risk counties outside infected areas, but only to restock farms that have been culled out. The government also intends to allow cattle and pigs to move between a group of adjoining high-risk counties outside infected areas. Movement between counties will be allowed within infected areas. Pigs will be allowed into infected areas from elsewhere within the same county. The relaxation of the rules will be a boost for farmers in the north of England after more than three weeks since the last case of the disease. They will be a step towards normality for producers in the high-risk counties of Cumbria, Northumberland, Durham, North Yorkshire and Lancashire. The National Farmers' Union said being able to move male breeding animals into high-risk counties will help prevent the collapse of the breeding season. Producers trying to rebuild their businesses have been given hope by the move to allow them to source animals from outside their county. NFU deputy president Tim Bennett: "These changes will by no means solve all the problems of producers but this is certainly a significant step forward."
Oct 25

Congress considering ways to safeguard food supply from possible terrorist acts
San Francisco Gate
(10-25) 17:24 PDT WASHINGTON (AP) -- After attacks from the air and the mail, officials worry the nation's food supply could be next. The government considers potential targets to be fruits and vegetables that people eat raw and cattle that could be infected with fast-spreading foot-and-mouth disease. To deter potential terrorists, Congress is considering proposals to hire hundreds of new food inspectors and lab technicians and empower the government to seize or recall tainted products and inspect food makers' records. The Agriculture Department has put veterinarians on alert and wants more guards to protect its labs around the country that work with food pathogens. "Food security can no longer be separated from our national security," Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., said Thursday.....
Oct 25

October 25, 2001

Food agency tightens securityCanada National Post

Bioterror fear: Extra employees to monitor products entering Canada The threat of a bioterror attack against Canada's food supply or agricultural industry has prompted a federal agency to substantially beef up its inspection team and increase vigilance at airports, harbours and border points. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has added the equivalent of 52 full-time employees to keep an eye on agricultural and food products coming into Canada, an agency spokesman said yesterday.
Oct 25

NEW SCRAPIE TEST PROJECT LAUNCHED
PA News

An urgent new project to establish whether sheep have contracted BSE has been launched by the Government's chief scientific advisor, it was disclosed today. Professor David King said they would be using cutting-edge scientific tests which can establish within 48 hours whether an animal has the disease. "I am rather confident that using this fast technique we will be able to gather a significant amount data in a short period of time," he told BBC Radio 4's today programme. The move follows the debacle over the Government's previous attempt to establish whether BSE had crossed over into sheep, which had to be abandoned after four years when it was discovered scientists had been testing cattle brains.

Although sheep have been infected with BSE under laboratory conditions (warmwell note: it should be emphasised that this artificial infection was brought about by injecting the unfortunate sheep with infected brain material), there is no evidence to date that it has occurred naturally. The difficulty for scientists is that it is very similar to scrapie which does occur naturally in sheep and unlike BSE does not pose any health threat to humans....
Oct 25

Farming industry must seek forward stimulus
The Scotsman

DONALD Biggar, who farms near Castle Douglas and is also vice chairman of Quality Meat Scotland, lost 1,000 cattle and a similar number of sheep to foot-and-mouth on 23 March. He is now in the process of restocking, but warned the "Beyond foot-and-mouth" conference yesterday that the industry as a whole must change. .......... "There is a clear danger that the industry will revert to type if there is no stimulus." The forward strategy means concentrating on real markets. If farmers don't act, then restructuring will happen by default and those who cannot meet the challenges will be forced out. Biggar suggested that a thorough review of the subsidy system is needed. It is, he said, distorting trade while at the same time being needlessly time consuming and costly. John Cameron, a former president of NFU Scotland with a substantial farming empire, also accepted that the industry must alter course - but not too dramatically . "The time has come when the present criteria for injecting additional funding must change. I believe that the rural livestock subsidies have been a sound agricultural and social investment over the years. But as an industry we have not made a good job of explaining to consumers and taxpayers why we need them. Not surprisingly, subsidies are not popular." He is keen to see land management contracts introduced instead of the existing area based schemes for support in the hills: "Farmers and stockmen are best suited to implement these because we are on the spot. We must undertake those new roles seriously and responsibly, but we should receive remuneration for doing so." Contrary to suggestions that livestock numbers should be reduced, he said: "I am certainly going to increase my breeding stock numbers".
Oct 25

Devon's foot-and-mouth report to be published Monday online.
Onlinenews.com

The preliminary report of Devon's foot-and-mouth inquiry will be published on Monday, the county council said today. The week long Devon county council-organised inquiry ended on October 12, after the panel heard 360 submissions from the public and organisations. The inquiry's preliminary report has been published so quickly because it is being sent to the British Government's Policy Commission on the Future of Farming - one of the government's three inquiries into the outbreak. The inquiry chairman, Professor Ian Mercer, is currently studying written evidence from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Rural Affairs Minister Alun Michaels sent a four page letter following a series of written questions submitted by Devon county council.
Oct 25

Vaccination should have been used
The Scotsman

Fordyce Maxwell Rural Affairs Editor THE government should have used vaccination to help fight the foot-and-mouth epidemic one of Scotland's most eminent scientists said yesterday. Professor Sir William Stewart, president of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, said that the Ministry of Agriculture should have tackled foot-and-mouth in the same way that the Department of Health fights 'flu. He told a conference in Edinburgh: "Some people have said there are so many variations of foot-and-mouth that a vaccine would not be effective. But there are many strains of 'flu. Are we seriously saying that vaccination has no part to play in foot-and-mouth when the Department of Health is giving thousands of patients 'flu jabs?" Sir William, chairman of the Microbiological Research Authority, was chief scientific adviser to the government 1990-95. Making the keynote address at the conference "Beyond foot-and-mouth" organised by the Edinburgh Centre for Rural Research - .......... Without pre-empting his own society's inquiry, he added: "Vaccine must be a tool ready for use. They can not make the same mistake again."
Global horizon-scanning alerted the Department of Health to the incidence of 'flu throughout the world and which strains were likely to reach Britain, allowing it to take effective vaccination action using a well-defined protocol. Exactly the same methods could be used, and should have been used, against foot-and-mouth, said Sir William. Robert Balfour of the Scottish Landowners Federation told the conference that his organisation had argued for ring or "firebreak" vaccination in March when the epidemic was raging in Dumfries and Galloway. ......... Balfour said: "We need a single public inquiry without delay. .......
Oct 25

Welfare costs, here's where you start to payWestern Daily Press

British consumers have been accused of operating dual standards - supporting better welfare on farms but refusing to pay for it. In a blistering attack, a group of leading academics claim shoppers' reluctance to buy higher welfare-standard foods is simply piling up more animal health problems for livestock farmers. Leading the assault on buying habits is John Webster, professor of animal husbandry at Bristol university, who says shoppers are inadvertently condoning poor welfare. Consumer survey after consumer survey has shown that the vast majority of British shoppers claim they want to buy welfare-friendly products - but when it comes to the supermarket check-outs they are simply not putting their money where their mouths are,  he said. This leaves many high-welfare farmers high-and-dry, having invested heavily in good welfare practice, with no marketplace for their products. He said although consumers often perceived welfare-friendly products as being more expensive, increasing sales would bring prices down. Despite massive investment in better welfare standards, the academics say levels of animal suffering are still unacceptably high. They cite lameness in dairy cows and crippling leg disorders in broiler chickens. The criticism comes just weeks after leading agricultural economist Sir John Marsh warned that British farmers will soon find it impossible to compete on world markets, as a result of welfare pressures. But farmers say the real problem lies with supermarkets levering prices down by importing huge amounts of cheap meat from across the world.
posted Oct 25

Plague Tests Prove Negative
The Journal

More than 300 cattle were culled at Wedholme Farm, Kirkbride, after a farmer reported a suspected case to the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Government officials confirmed that blood tests taken from animals belonging to farmer, Alan Todhunter, had all come back negative. There hasn't been a confirmed foot and mouth case anywhere in the country for 23 days. Farmers now have a sense of optimism that the outbreak, the worst since 1967 in this country, is at last coming to an end after a terrible year which has seen millions of cattle and sheep slaughtered. If the case had been confirmed the fears were that the disease could continue throughout the winter, with the virus thriving in cold conditions. A Defra spokesman said: "It is always a relief when a case proves to be negative. But this one has even more significance because it means we haven't had a confirmed case for more than three weeks now." Neighbouring farmers are breathing a sigh of relief because their animals will not have to be slaughtered. Some restrictions in that area had just been lifted before the scare. The last confirmed case of foot and mouth in Britain was at Little Asby, Appleby, on September 30.
Oct 24

£24m is not enough, Haskins tells Beckett
The Journal

Countryside tsar Lord Haskins last night called on the Government to deliver on his recommendation for £40m to revive Britain's beleaguered rural economy. The Northern Foods chairman said Defra minister Margaret Beckett's pledge of £24m to the recovery fund was not enough and called on the Government to more than double the amount. ........ Lord Haskins said: "I considered £40m to be an appropriate figure when I submitted my report, so in that sense the sum announced by the Government is not enough. However, the Government has promised to look at it again. "There are also 11 other short-term recommendations, which I feel are very important to the recovery of the rural economy, that the Government has not yet responded to. But they will have to make a formal response in the next week or so and I'm interested to hear what they've got to say. Defra has so far responded to only one short-term proposal. According to Lord Haskins, businesses suffering most are farmers who still have animals but are tied up by movement restrictions and businesses relying on agriculture. Trevor Hebdon, chief executive of H&H Group in Carlisle - which runs agriculture-related operations, including a livestock mart - said the company was disappointed by the Government response to the report. "I think Lord Haskin's report was a very pragmatic report," he said. "Defra's response needs to be swift because there are a lot of businesses in the North that won't last the winter without the help outlined in this report. "We are awaiting the Government's response to the other recommendations with interest because if something isn't done quickly to enable animals to move from unsuitable farms, then we are going to face a serious animal welfare problem." ....... .......... "In areas such as Weardale and the Cheviots, many small businesses will not come back. They will take down the vacancy sign and it just won't go up again," he said. "Any money that could be made available to help the industry is welcome undefined But of course £40m would be better than £24m.
Oct 24

North Powys free of foot-and-mouth
icWales

... From midnight last night North Powys, the worst hit area in Wales, became classed "foot-and-mouth free", with South Powys, Monmouthshire and the South Wales Valleys downgraded from "in-fected area" to "at risk" status. Rural Affairs Minister Carwyn Jones said it was excellent news for the farming community in North Powys, and praised those who have had to endure the heartbreak and financial hardship of seeing their animals destroyed. The down-grading of the other counties to "at risk", he said, was "an important first step in moving these areas of South Wales towards achieving disease free status." But he warned the disease could still be lurking. "The advice from the State Veterinary Service is that there is a possibility that there may be as yet undiagnosed disease in some sheep flocks and the risk that disease may spread from them," he said. For this reason, he said, restrictions would continue in place on sheep movements but cattle and pigs would be able to move out of the areas. Cattle, pigs and sheep from other "free" and "at risk" counties would be able to move into the areas from today. "These areas of South Wales will be regarded as a single move-ment zone for the purposes of sheep movements. In addition prior serology testing will be required before sheep can be moved within this area." "With Cardiff and Newport local authority areas also classified as "at risk", the priority now is to complete an extensive blood testing programme with the aim that all areas of Wales achieve FMD Free status at the earliest opportunity." Farmers' Union of Wales spokesman Alan Morris said, "This is excellent news, another step in the road to recovery for Powys after what has been a devastating year." National Farmers' Union Cymru Wales president Hugh Richards said, "The farmers of North Powys have suffered for such a long time and to have finally achieved disease-free status is testimony to their hard work, co-operation and vigilance in eradicating the disease. (warmwell note: Mr Richards here sounds a little like a pompous schoolteacher.... disease-free status?..does he really imagine that other countries are going to believe that the UK is disease-free without the certainty of vaccination? We hope so indeed but we wait to see whether the unnecessary slaughter of so many healthy animals really has been "worth" the farmers' heartache and financial hardship so glibly spoken of by Carwyn Jones.) Montgomeryshire AM Mick Bates said, "It means that normal service can be resumed and we will be able to get the stock moving again this autumn."
Oct 24

Beckett denies any attempt to mislead
Scotsman

Fordyce Maxwell Rural Affairs Editor A GOVERNMENT minister yesterday denied trying to mislead the public about the BSE brain-testing fiasco. Margaret Beckett, secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs, insisted in a Commons statement that her department had been "open and transparent" about research into the possibility of sheep being infected with BSE. It was discovered last week, after four years of tests on brains collected from animals in the early 1990s by the Institute of Animal Health, that the samples being used were from cattle not sheep. To derisive Tory jeers she said: "The finding that there was no sheep material in the samples sent to the DNA laboratory was a totally unforeseen development." Opposition spokesman Peter Ainsworth branded the whole episode a fiasco and accused the minister of "a staggering display of complacency" in the face of the findings. Insisting that the mix-up "beggars belief", he said it was yet another "humiliating embarrassment" for DEFRA, successor to the Ministry of Agriculture, and already under fierce and continuing criticism for its handling of the foot-and-mouth crisis. The four-year study into whether sheep could contract BSE - which had already produced a warning that 40 million sheep might have to be slaughtered if it was found that they could - was abandoned after the contamination was discovered. But news of the crucial mistake in testing came in a vague late-night press release which a spokesman for the Prime Minister admitted yesterday could have been a mistake.
(warmwell note: the article ends with Chris Bostock's refusal to accept responsibility and his attempt to lay blame elsewhere, and with yet another repetition of the unproved assertion that there is a link beween BSE and CJD)Professor Chris Bostock, who headed the study by the Institute of Animal Health, denied that the mix-up was his fault. The Veterinary Laboratory Association, he said, had given the samples the all-clear last December. That assurance had left open the possibility that sheep can get BSE, but that this danger has been masked by the symptoms of scrapie, a disease known for two centuries which has no effect on human health - unlike BSE, now linked with the human brain disease variant CJD.
posted Oct 24

Brussels steps in over BSE sheep
Farmers Weekly

(warmwell note: So suddenly there are "BSE sheep"? Is no one going to blow the whistle on this fabricated scare story?) BRUSSELS is considering tighter food safety measures after Britain's tests for BSE in sheep ended in fiasco, officials said on Tuesday (23 October). More must be done to help counter the theoretical risk that BSE is present in UK sheep, warned European food safety commissioner David Byrne. "To date our approach has been precautionary," he told farm ministers in Luxembourg. "We now need to consider if further measures are necessary." Mr Byrne said European officials had hoped research results from the UK would shed important light on the need for extra precautions. But British scientists mistakenly worked on cattle brains rather than sheep brains for the past four years, rendered the research results useless. Mr Byrne said: "This is very disappointing and the continued uncertainty leaves us in a very difficult position." The European Commission is already planning to introduce random tests in sheep from January next year. The aim is to improve the epidemiological picture of the incidence of scrapie which could be masking the presence of BSE. But Mr Byrne said the time had now come to consider further measures and the commission would be making proposals shortly. These are expected to include full traceability and an extension to the BSE-risk material which must be removed from sheep for human consumption.
(warmwell note: All this surrealism has been brought about by madness in scientists jumping the species barrier into politicians. There is no BSE in sheep. There is no indication that scrapie has any implications for human health. There is no evidence that scrapie "masks" BSE. But sheep farmers are now more than ever in the power of those who use fear about health to take measures for motives of their own: more restrictions, more rules and regulations, more power to impose "scrapie resistant sheep" )
Oct 23

Gill writes to Beckett on sheep fiasco
Farmers Weekly

FARMERS' leader Ben Gill has written to Rural Affairs Secretary Margaret Beckett to express concern at the fiasco over BSE in sheep. Mr Gill said he feared the botched experiments and subsequent headlines had inflicted needless damage on an already weak sheep industry. Other on-going experiments on recently collected sheep brains confirm there is no evidence of BSE in the national sheep flock, he added. But the controversy over the flawed research has obscured this and could have hit public confidence in sheep. Action to eradicate scrapie from the national flock must be speeded up and the testing of sheep for BSE-type disease redoubled, said Mr Gill The way the government revealed the botched experiments had led to a controversy which had been bad for the sheep industry, he added. "Every effort must be made to ensure that we have an orderly presentation of any results into the public domain in future. "My priority - and that of every sheep farmer - is to ensure that public confidence in UK lamb and mutton is maintained." An open meeting should be held at which full reports are given on the work being undertaken on the question of BSE in sheep, said Mr Gill.
Oct 23

Don't destroy farming, urges Evans
Lancashire Evening Telegraph

RIBBLE Valley MP Nigel Evans has warned the government not to destroy the farming industry and demanded a full public inquiry into the foot-and-mouth epidemic. Responding to Lord Haskins report on rural recovery following the virus outbreak, Mr Evans welcomed the calls for more short term help for farming and tourism recommended in the document. But Mr Evans, a member of the Conservative Shadow Cabinet, told Goosnargh Farmers' Club in Chipping he wanted action not words. Mr Evans said: "Many farmers throughout my constituency have been badly affected by foot and mouth. The last confirmed case in the country was September 30 and although I have concerns over a possible outbreak, further assistance is needed for our farming communities urgently." He added: "Environment farming and rural affairs secretary Margaret Beckett must not let this industry be destroyed by stealth." "We need a full public inquiry into the outbreak and we are desperate there should be a future for farming otherwise the devastating effect will see the disappearance of our farmlands which will be felt for generations and throughout many industries."
posted Oct 23

OFT to be challenged over livestock pricing
icWales

THE Welsh Affairs Select Committee is to scrutinise the Office of Fair Trading over livestock pricing and the prices supermarkets have been charging customers for meat during the foot-and-mouth crisis. Brecon and Radnorshire MP Roger Williams has secured agreement from the Welsh Affairs Select Committee that it will call in the OFT to give evidence about its investigations into supermarket power. Mr Williams said he was delighted that his colleagues had agreed to his proposal. "I wrote to the director general of OFT some weeks ago to ask that he instigate an investigation in to why, as the foot-and-mouth outbreak has gone on, prices paid to farmers for their animals have fallen ever further, while supermarket meat prices have remained so high. .......
Oct 23

Welsh farmers in hunting call
icWales

... The row over fox hunting died away when the General Election was called ... .... Now members of the Welsh National Farmers' Union say all counties in the Principality are reporting an increase in fox numbers and predation since the voluntary ban started on February 22. But farmers say the right balance needs to be struck between the very real need to control foxes and eliminating the risk of any potential spread of the virus by hunting activities. Land Use Officer of the Welsh Farmers' Union Mrs Rhian Nowell-Phillips said: "The union hopes the Defra Risk Assessment will be published imminently and that a resumption of hunting in clean areas at least will be allowed in the very near future. "Obviously the final decision of whether to allow hunting will be left to individual land owners, but feedback from members demonstrates a growing concern about the rising fox population which needs urgent action before next year's lambing season." But a coalition of the RSPCA, International Fund for Animal Welfare and the League Against Cruel Sports is urging the Government to put hunting back on to the parliamentary agenda as soon as possible. It says there is a need to uphold the will of the majority of MPs who want to see the sport banned. A spokesman for the Campaign for the Protection of Hunted Animals (CPHA) said: "There are clear moral and animal welfare grounds for banning hunting with dogs and no compelling reasons for allowing it to resume. "With the country still under the shadow of foot-and-mouth disease, hunting poses a completely unnecessary risk to the countryside.
"Hunting with dogs has been completely banned for six months. The economic impact of that ban has been insignificant compared to what foot-and-mouth has cost tourism and agriculture.
"There is also no credible evidence that the countryside is overrun by foxes, but that is hardly surprising considering mounted hunts account for only 6% of annual fox mortality."
(warmwell note: There are "clear moral and animal welfare grounds" to control FMD with means other than a knee-jerk slaughter policy too. Where was the voice of these humanitarians over the issue of the cruelty to livestock and family farmers? Incidentally, do they really not realise that foxes will be trapped, poisoned and inexpertly shot when hunting is banned?) Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) officials have been carrying our veterinary risk assessments before making a decision on the resumption of hunting. The CPHA is urging Defra to spend the time instead on enabling the Government to follow through on its commitment to resolve the hunting issue.
Oct 23

Two more years for sheep BSE probe
Farmers Weekly

By Alistair Driver
FARMERS face more uncertainty after food safety officials admitted it could take two years before it is known whether BSE is present in sheep. Food Standards Agency chairman Sir John Krebs called on the government to speed up its efforts to find out whether the disease has jumped to sheep. His comments follow a four-year testing programme which collapsed because scientists had been studying cow brains rather than sheep brains. It could take two years before fresh experiments are completed, Sir John told an agency board meeting in London on Monday (22 October). "We have made it clear that more definite action with a definite timetable needs to be taken by the government," he said. Sir John said the government should fund more work on developing tests to distinguish between BSE and scrapie in sheep. During a lively board discussion, he admitted that it was still unclear what exactly went wrong with the botched experiments. The study of samples what were thought to be 3000 sheep brains had indicated that up to 1% of the national flock was infected with BSE. But a press statement published on a government website late last Wednesday (17 October) admitted that the tests had been botched. Scottish farmer and Food Standards Agency board member Michael Gibson said it was fortunate officials had been told to cross-check the results. "If we had not recommended these tests, we might have been pushing the panic button on the entire national sheep flock," he said.
Oct 22

Union denies backing Haskins
Farmers Weekly

By Isabel Davies
FARM leaders have denied that they recommended that Lord Haskins should be given the job of devising the government's rural recovery plan. Rural Affairs Secretary Margaret Beckett made the suggestion as she addressed the House of Commons last Thursday (18 October). "I should also like to share with the House a piece of information of which I have just been reminded," she told MPs. "Lord Haskins was in fact recommended as the person to conduct the study by the NFU in Cumbria." A National Farmers' Union spokeswoman insisted that the union had not recommended any one person for the role. But she admitted that a list of around 10 names - including that of Lord Haskins - had been discussed on an unofficial basis. However, the spokeswoman added: "We were never asked and never officially recommended anyone." The appointment of the Northern Foods chairman as "countryside tsar" in the summer prompted fury among the farming community. The FARMERS WEEKLY letters page was filled with correspondence from producers angered by his suggestion that they take part-time jobs. They also claimed it was wrong that their future had been placed in the hands of someone whose company stood to profit from cheap food.
Oct 22

No store worth organic award'
Farmers Weekly

By Adrienne Francis
THE Soil Association has withheld its Retailer of the Year Award, claiming that British supermarkets don't buy enough local organic food. Soil Association President Jonathan Dimbleby said supermarkets should overhaul their buying practices and source more organic food. Mr Dimbleby, who is also a farmer and well-known broadcaster, said he wanted to see an improved relationship between retailers and producers. His attack on supermarkets came after a poll by NOP Research showed that consumers saw no significant difference between the big retailers. The results of the survey, commissioned by the Soil Association, led to the organisation withholding its Retailer of the Year Award for 2001. Mr Dimbleby said: "I would like to see less price discrimination. Instead of forcing down the grid price, supermarkets should look internally." He continued: "We live in very difficult times, trapped by anxiety and the devastation that has afflicted British agriculture. "On the upside, the advent of foot-and-mouth disease has stimulated a great need to re-examine the way we produce food." Mr Dimbleby added: "We must promote the common good locally, to create a sustainable society and organisation, locally, nationally and globally."
Oct 22

No BSE in sheep, says Beckett
Ananova

Margaret Beckett says no BSE has so far been found in sheep. (warmwell note: are we being unduly paranoid in noting that " so far"?)
Her comment follows last week's admission from the Government that scientists had mistakenly been testing the brains of cows instead. She has defended her department's handling of last Wednesday's announcement about the problems. Mrs Beckett has told MPs she had decided to make an announcement as soon as possible rather than arrange a press briefing the next morning. The Environment Food and Rural Affairs Secretary told the Commons: "I was convinced that the information would leak, I didn't want the slightest hint of a cover-up." Mrs Beckett said there was embarrassment and dismay about the mistake, it was not the Government which had been embarrassed as the research, though commissioned by the former Agriculture Ministry, was not carried out by that department. (warmwell note: does this make grammatical or any other kind of sense?)
The Environment Secretary acknowledged there had been complaints that some of the phraseology was obscure but argued that in the circumstances it had seemed right to say only that the validity of the sample had been called into question. "There was no intention to conceal or mislead," she said. Mrs Beckett said the Food Standards Agency saw no reason not to eat British lamb and added: "We have been throughout open and transparent in all our research into BSE." (warmwell note: ..an assertion that we find quite mind-boggling in its bare-faced impertinence - see BSE fiasco)
Shadow rural affairs secretary Peter Ainsworth denounced Mrs Beckett's statement as a staggering display of complacency, adding: "Her handling of this issue has been appalling."
Oct 22

Controls lifted at 1,500 farms -
Yorkshire Post

GOVERNMENT vets say it is too early to claim victory over foot and mouth disease, but 21 days without any confirmed cases has allowed them to relax severe restrictions on parts of North and West Yorkshire. The high biosecurity "blue box" which was extended when the virus threatened to spread out of Cumbria was contracted back to the county boundary yesterday - removing the strict controls from 135 farms in North Yorkshire. Originally the cordon extended from Penrith to Kirkby Stephen, but was enlarged after foot and mouth disease was confirmed on September 26 in the village of Barbon, a previously clean area close to the North Yorkshire boundary. In total, more than 1,500 farms in Cumbria, Lancashire and Yorkshire will benefit from the reduction of the so-called Penrith Spur in which the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has enforced a rigorous cleaning and disinfecting regime since August 10. ....The weekend's relaxation comes after Defra was able to confirm that cultures grown from samples taken from 300 animals slaughtered on suspicion of having foot and mouth on Wednesday at Wedholme Farm, Kirkbride, west of Carlisle, were negative. Vets have taken blood samples from animals slaughtered on suspicion at another farm near Carlisle and those results are still awaited. But a Defra spokesman said they were optimistic of another negative result. (see Elaine's comment)
Oct 22

Beckett seeks to calm fears over lamb
Telegraph

MARGARET BECKETT has sought to reassure consumers alarmed by the collapse of tests to discover whether BSE was in the national sheep flock by saying that she still ate British lamb. The Environment and Food Secretary said no evidence had been found that BSE had been present in British lamb, though it was a theoretical possibility in the early 1990s. Thousands of tests had been carried out to see if BSE was present, disguised by scrapie. The experiments, designed to show whether BSE was present in the national sheep flock in the early 1990s and which were revealed to have gone disastrously wrong last week, were only part of the picture, Mrs Beckett said. Meanwhile, it was disclosed that David King, the Government's chief scientist, had been asked by Mrs Beckett's department to review all the research on BSE and sheep. Last night, Mrs Beckett was seeking a slot in the Commons today to explain that she was responsible for deciding, against the advice of officials, to publish a statement at 10.30pm last Wednesday........ The Tories have demanded a Commons statement today on the fiasco.
Oct 22

The real British disease We must learn lessons of post-war failure, says Simon Caulkin
The Observer

A Guardian reader wondered how Tony Blair's government could save the world if it couldn't build a new athletics stadium at Picketts Lock. That may sound a cheap shot, but it's not. The management gap - chasm, rather - between aspiration and achievement, between wishing the end and willing the means, has been the real 'British disease' for more than two generations. And the strain shows no sign of dying out. The clanking shambles of the railways, Rover's cul-de-sac, the chronic sickness of the NHS and the C-plus performance of British education are not individual one-offs, surprising interruptions in an otherwise continuing story of improving efficiency. On the contrary, they are of a piece with - and a logical outcome of - common management shortcomings going back at least 50 years. .......
posted Oct 22

Another food farce
Sunday Times

anybody listening to Margaret Beckett defending her reaction to the latest mix-up, in which cow brain samples were mixed up with those from sheep, would imagine she was dealing with an issue of unfortunate news management instead of a matter of vital concern to consumers. Parents were specifically told they had nothing to worry about because British baby food contained no British lamb. Next day, they were told by food manufacturers that it did, and when the Food Standards Agency (FSA) was told so earlier this year, it said there was no need to stop the practice. What are the FSA and its uninformed chairman, Sir John Krebs, playing at?
Oct 21

YOUR LETTERS: READER'S LETTER
Sunday Mirror

AFTER a succession of politicians have proved incapable of dealing with BSE and Foot and Mouth Disease, why should we accept assurances that they would be able to handle the introduction of anthrax or other germs into Britain?
Maurice Williams Blackwood, Gwent
Oct 21

NEW CALL FOR TESTS ON SHEEP
Sunday Mirror

A LEADING expert on Mad Cow Disease has called for urgent tests on the brains of tens of thousands of sheep. (warmwell note: unusual for Prof Anderson to appear in person. He usually prefers to do his stringpulling out of the public gaze. Perhaps it is a measure of his desperation that all those funds will be withdrawn and his credibility called into question that he is so savagely whipping up public fear in this way - we would rearrange the first few words of this credulous report.
See BSE fiasco- bovine spongythinking myopathy)
Professor Roy Anderson warned yesterday that without a nationwide survey there could be no certainty lamb is safe to eat. His remarks follow the Government's admission that scientists had bungled a three-year experiment to find out whether BSE had spread from cows to sheep, by testing the wrong kind of brains. Prof Anderson, a key Government adviser, said a new survey of lambs should be "immediate" and tests should cover 10,000 animals instead of the "tiny" sample of 180 the failed research used. Rural Affairs Secretary Margaret Beckett refused to give an assurance that another survey would be carried out and said there was only a "theoretical" risk BSE had spread to sheep.
Oct 21

'Very good day' for spin that shames New Labour
Magnus Linklater in the Scotsman on Sunday

THE crime of Jo Moore was not just an error of judgment - though it was certainly that. It was not just tasteless - though she stands condemned for that too. It was not even that her attitude was "inconsistent with any notion of public service", as one of her principal accusers put it last week. Her gravest sin was to shed light on the inner workings of modern government. And what we saw was not a pretty sight.

That may explain why, five weeks after the event itself, the row continues to rumble on. Indeed, it has grown from one woman's base offence into a battle for the soul of New Labour. The facts are straightforward: Ms Moore, an adviser who works for Stephen Byers, Secretary of State for Transport, was, like the rest of us, watching the terrible events of September 11 on television. As the terrorists' planes slammed into the Word Trade Centre in New York, she chose to send an e-mail to her colleagues, suggesting that it would be "a very good day" to put out any inconvenient announcements the department might have to make, since they would be "buried" by the cataclysmic events taking place in America.
Oct 21

How lunacy by officials has betrayed farmers
Sunday Telegraph

FOR four years I have followed with amazement the desperate efforts of various publicly funded scientists to prove that sheep can get BSE. At regular intervals they have produced new scientific papers, dutifully publicised by the BBC, claiming that "new evidence" is bringing them ever nearer to their goal, and that, if they get there, this would justify killing all the 40 million sheep in Britain.
Now it emerges, as the Department for the Elimination of Farming and Rural Affairs shamefacedly sneaked on to its website at 10.30 last Wednesday night, some of these scientists had all along been looking, not at sheep brains but at those of BSE-infected cattle. As further evidence of the kind of lunacy farmers must live with every day of their lives, Margaret Beckett's boast last week that she was kindly providing "an additional £24 million" to compensate farmers and other businesses hit by foot and mouth might seem to pale into insignificance. But it may not be surprising to note how that £24 million, announced in a week when it was reported that damage cause by foot and mouth to rural tourism has amounted to £2 billion, is not new money at all. Most of it has been reallocated from spending under the EU-sponsored Rural Development Fund, of which Britain has applied for by far the smallest percentage of any country in the EU (Irish farmers are proportionately receiving eight times as much).
Any money handed out in foot and mouth compensation will therefore simply be taken away from other farmers. At the same time, Mrs Beckett's ministry sneaked out an announcement that, because of the costs of "terrorism", it will not be applying to Brussels, as promised, for £57 million due to compensate British farmers for the collapse of the euro (because subsidies are calculated in euros).
This means that, yet again, British farmers will be heavily penalised against the other EU farmers with whom they have to compete. But it also means that while Mrs Beckett tries to claim credit for handing out £24 million, most of which is likely to be swallowed up in red tape and consultants' fees anyway, she is much less keen to advertise that she has simultaneously taken away more than twice that sum. It is hardly surprising that farmers feel this Government views them with total contempt.
Oct 21

Anger as Government offers struggling firms £14m
Western Daily Press

TONY Blair last night offered businesses hit by the foot-and-mouth crisis just £14 million to survive the winter. Experts claim the cash is just a fraction of the amount needed to prevent tourism and countryside companies folding this Christmas. Yesterday Government advisor Lord Haskins unveiled a rural rescue package costing up to £100 million. But the Government announced that only 14 per cent, or £14 million, in new money would be made available. Experts claim Cumbria alone needs £150 million after its tourism and farming industries were devastated by foot-and-mouth. And despite being one of the worst-hit regions, the South-west is not expected to receive more than £3 million. Rural recovery co-ordinator Lord Haskins published his long-awaited report on the impact of foot-and-mouth yesterday morning. He recommended injecting an extra £40 million into the Bus-iness Recovery Fund to help distressed firms and a raft of additional measures costing up to £100 million. These included reinforcing the message 'the countryside is open for business' with Government advertising; no restraints on the movement of rural visitors; a continued sympathetic approach by the Customs & Excise and Inland Revenue, and a Government assurance the countryside will be back in business by April 2002. He said footpath closures had failed to prevent the spread of foot-and-mouth, which had nothing to do with ramblers and hikers.
Oct 20

Tourism chiefs welcome Two Moors music festival initiative
BBC Devon

The biggest classical music festival ever held in the South West kicks off today in Dunster. The Two Moors Festival has been organised to help rebuild confidence in rural communities following the foot-and-mouth crisis. The festival has been hailed by tourism chiefs in Devon as an "example of the kind of 'out of season' tourism needed to give the local economy a boost in the wake of foot-and-mouth". Each of the concerts is taking place in village or town of historic beauty The Festival stretches from Dartmoor to Exmoor and includes 14 concerts in rural churches over the next two weeks. The aim is to celebrate a return to the moors following foot-and-mouth and is part of the Devon County Council campaign "Devon Is Open All Year Round".
Oct 20

Environment Agency calls for environmental management standard for farming
Edie.net News

British farming may soon have environmental management standard The call follows the publication of a report by Lord Haskins, the Government's rural recovery co-ordinator, into the state of the Cumbrian rural economy following the disease outbreak, which outlines measures required for the recovery of tourism and other small businesses in the region. The Environment Agency's proposed environmental management standard for farming is intended to be a core part of whole farm management plans that include business, welfare and environmental needs, with strong emphasis given to natural resource - soil, water and air- conservation. The standard needs to be both effective and flexible, permitting farmers and land managers to take the actions that are best suited to their land, says the Agency. For practices with minimum pollution risk, the Environment Agency will provide support and advice, but higher risk practices would be more tightly regulated, an Agency spokesman told edie. Currently, pig and poultry farming are being prepared for regulation under Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC), which is due to come into effect in a couple of years. Successful adoption of a basic environmental management standard could allow farms to demonstrate regulatory compliance without the need for inspection, says the Agency. This means that the Agency could then focus its resources on providing technical advice and on regulating the small number of farms that present issues such as a history of pollution offences. The Environment Agency is critical of the European Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which encourages farming practices that cause damage to the environment. There are also fears that foot-and-mouth disease, BSE and collapsing farm incomes are pushing farmers towards short term survival measures which may have longer term implications for the environment.
Oct 20

Ovine waffle
Yorkshire Post

A FAIRLY disastrous error - that is how Government scientists described the revelation that their colleagues had spent the last four years testing the brains of cows instead of sheep.
Had the mistake not been spotted by quizzical fellow investigators, it is possible that the Government would have recommended the slaughter of the entire national flock, since it appeared that the deadly BSE prion had been found in sheep brains. Millions of animals would have been killed and countless farms brought to the brink of ruin. Indeed, the talk in Westminster last week, when the interim findings from the Institute of Animal Health Laboratory in Edinburgh were first published, was that farming would soon be in the grip of another crisis.
Imagine the Government's relief, therefore, when it discovered that the four-year-long inquiry had been examining the brains of cattle, not of sheep. But that relief will have soon been tempered by another kind of panic. It would not look good that a publicly-funded scientific experiment had been so badly bungled. So, once again, the Labour spin machine went into whitewash mode....... So much for open government. .......Mrs Beckett had the perfect opportunity to present these findings to the House of Commons on Thursday, but chose instead to have them posted, late at night, on a computer site. This was a double error of judgment. ....

Once again, public trust in government and its scientific advisers has been eroded. ......If scientists can mistake sheep brains for cow brains, maybe they could make other mistakes. And if they did make mistakes, perhaps the Government would prefer to "bury" these awkward facts rather than air them in public? For their part, Britain's farmers, who have long been sceptical about the alleged link between BSE in cattle and new variant CJD in humans, will see this latest sad episode as yet another reason for being distrustful of scientists and their political masters. Whatever Mrs Beckett eventually says in her belated defence, down on the farm it will be heard as nothing more than the murmurings of ovine waffle.
Oct 20

Six key questions
Telegraph

Are there "mad sheep" out there, like "mad cows"? BSE has never been found occurring naturally in sheep. Scientists have been looking for it in two recent studies. 163 brains from sheep which recently had scrapie, a disease which is thought to have similar symptoms but is harmless to humans, have been tested for BSE by injecting mice to see if they develop it. All were clear. 465 similar brains have been tested by Prof John Collinge's molecular method, which is not yet validated. These were clear too.
So can sheep get BSE at all? Around 20 sheep have been deliberately given BSE in experiments by injecting BSE material into their brains and feeding sheep fragments of mad cow brains. It has never been done by feeding them meat and bone meal.....
Were sheep fed meat and bone meal too? Some sheep are believed to have been given infected meat and bone meal after BSE developed in cows. Those sheep fed it would have received very much smaller quantities than cattle, and for much shorter times.
Surely if there were "mad sheep" they would have been spotted? .....t a survey in 1998 did not show a leap in scrapie in sheep when BSE was rampant.
Wouldn't they all be dead by now anyway? Almost certainly. Meat and bone meal was banned from feed in 1988.
Could ewes have passed it down to lambs? No one understands how scrapie is passed around flocks, let alone how BSE, if it existed in sheep, would be transmitted. ...........
Oct 20

Taken to task
Yorkshire Post - Comment

LORD Haskins may not be the most diplomatic of political figures, but the candour of his views, and the passion with which he expresses them, are a breath of fresh air from a Government obsessed by spin doctoring and media manipulation. A farmer and food producer himself, Lord Haskins argues that, unless the industry consolidates, small-scale agricultural production will provide neither an income for the farmer nor food for consumers at a price they are prepared to pay. Yet, he also recognises that farming provides more than foodstuffs for the public. Over the centuries, the farming community has created a rural landscape which now acts as a recreational magnet for so many urban people. If subsidies are to continue to be paid to uneconomic smaller farms, he argues, these tax transfers should be used to support farming methods which improve the quality of, and access to, the landscape. Sadly, his all too brief report fails to show how this might happen. .....As yesterday's debate in the House of Commons illustrated only too clearly, the Labour Party remains instinctively hostile to farming. Its newly pro-euro MPs resent the subsidies paid to agriculture, yet they fail to point out that it was not farmers who invented the Common Agricultural Policy, but politicians and bureaucrats. It is the farmers, however, who have to live with its consequences. Until the CAP is either reformed or scrapped, the market-distorting system of payments to farmers will continue to skew agricultural production in ways which are neither beneficial to consumers nor to the farmers. But Britain has no way of forcing the pace of change on a Europe that seems content to keep the status quo. Lord Haskins knows this, of course, but he is so strongly in favour of the European Union that he can barely bring himself to admit its failures
Oct 19

Cumbria kicked in the teeth
Cumberland News

FURY erupted yesterday as the Government slashed a £20 million Cumbria foot and mouth aid package proposed by its own rural recovery tsar. Rural Affairs Secretary Margaret Beckett waited just two hours after Lord Haskins unveiled his eagerly-awaited report before slapping down one of its key recommendations. .....NWDA chief executive Mike Shields said that would leave Cumbria with £8.5 million to replenish a £5million recovery fund for rural businesses which was exhausted two months ago with£15 million worth of claims still outstanding. It is less than one-fifteenth of the £130 million the county's rural task force claims is needed to head off an economic crisis this winter. Cumbria Tourist Board chief executive Chris Collier said Mrs Beckett's announcement guaranteed a stream of businesses would go bust over the winter.
Oct 19

Readers demand public inquiry
Farmers Weekly

THE government could be forced to hold a full public inquiry into foot-and-mouth if FARMERS WEEKLY and three other titles force a judicial review. West-Country solicitor Clarke Willmott and Clarke has written to Rural Affairs Secretary Margaret Beckett requesting a public inquiry into the crisis. .... The costs of the legal action will be met on a no-win, no-fee basis by the Western Morning News, the Western Mail, FARMERS WEEKLY and Horse & Hound. The letter sent to Mrs Beckett insists: "The general public has a legitimate interest in there being a full inquiry into all aspects of foot-and-mouth. "The law requires this legitimate interest be achieved through a thorough and vigorous public examination of the issues. ..... Tim Russ, head of agricultural law at Clarke Willmott and Clarke, wrote the letter to Mrs Beckett on behalf of farmers and other business people. The names were supplied by the titles supporting the legal action. "If we do have a full, open examination of the issues, we should learn a lot of valuable lessons for the future, which we may not be able to if we have three separate inquiries," said Mr Russ. Mr Lissack, who will represent the complainants if the review goes ahead, runs a 100ha (250 acre) farm on the Wiltshire/Somerset border. He took part in inquiries into the Ladbroke Grove train crash and the running of the Bristol Royal Infirmary. Each editor pledged to do all in their power to support the legal action. "Our readers are already very familiar with the vigour of our campaign on this issue," said Barrie Williams, editor of the Western Morning News. "Our commitment to underwrite the costs of a judicial review was a natural step for us." Alistair Milburn, deputy editor of the The Western Mail, said: "We have serious reservations about how the government has handled the inquiry." He added: "After the outbreak more than 30 years ago, the government vowed it would never happen again. But sadly it has." Arnold Garvey, editor of Horse & Hound, said: "The 101,000 signatures we have collected bear testimony to the strength of feeling across the country." FARMERS WEEKLY editor Stephen Howe said the magazine received many messages of support after it launched its Public Inquiry campaign. "Our office has been inundated with telephone calls, faxes and e-mails all backing our campaign for a public inquiry. Too many people have suffered too much to allow the government to escape with three inquiries that will not be held in public." .......
Oct 19

Storm over Government 'burial' of brain blunder over BSE tests
Telegraph

FARMING bodies and MPs were asking yesterday how a Government that ordered a #26 million inquiry into its predecessor's handling of the BSE epidemic came to post its own BSE blunder on its website at 10.30 on Wednesday evening. It would have been embarrassing to explain in the usual daytime manner that four years of tests intended to discover whether BSE was present in sheep was carried out on cows' brains by mistake, invalidating the results. .... the apparently furtive announcement of the blunder caused a furore. David Curry, Conservative chairman of the Commons select committee on the environment, food and rural affairs, demanded to know why no minister wanted to be associated with the announcement and why he was informed too late to put down a question for Margaret Beckett, the Environment Secretary, in the Commons. Mr Curry said Mrs Beckett, who appeared before his committee on Wednesday, did not tell him anything significant about the results of the tests, which cost the taxpayer £217,000 and which are expected to be considered by the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee at its meeting this morning. "She took me on one side afterwards and told me that the results were not looking good. No wonder. They were cow brains," said Mr Curry. "Then I heard on the Today programme that all hell had broken loose. "This is about a little bit more than the Government getting its results mixed up. We are talking about the great worry that is hanging over the countryside at the moment that sheep might have BSE, the consequence of which, the Government says, is that the entire national flock would have to be slaughtered." ....... Elliot Morley, rural affairs minister, said: "The problem was the story was all over the place around Whitehall. Ministers in the Welsh Assembly seemed to know. The only thing to do was to put it in the public domain." (warmwell note: poor hapless Mr Morley. He must have been flustered to allow himself such revealing words)......
Oct 19

Scientists in vital BSE experiment tested wrong animal brains
By Steve Connor Science Editor
Independent

An inquiry has been launched into how a crucial experiment into whether BSE has infected sheep fell apart in disarray after an astonishing mix up in which scientists discovered that they have been testing the wrong animal brains. The discovery, leaked on Wednesday night by embarrassed government officials, calls into question the quality of some of the science on which Britain's anti-BSE strategy is based. Scientists at the government-funded Institute for Animal Health in Edinburgh discovered that instead of testing sheep brains for BSE they had inadvertently been testing cattle brains for the past five years, making the entire£217,000 study null and void. The results of the experiment were about to be made public and it is understood that civil servants were bracing themselves for an announcement that BSE had been found in sheep. But three days before the results were due to be made public today - demonstrating that the cattle disease had jumped the "species barrier" into sheep - DNA tests on the material showed that it was composed entirely of cattle brains with no detectable sheep tissue. "Extraordinary is a fair description of this," said Professor Peter Smith, chairman of the Government's Spongiform Encepthalopathy Advisory Committee. "Everyone who's seen these results has been taken aback. It is amazing." Professor Chris Bostock, a member of Seac and the director of the Institute for Animal Health, said he was also surprised when he was told on Wednesday that another government laboratory had failed to find any DNA material that could have come from sheep brains in the samples undergoing the tests for BSE. "I was completely flabbergasted when told yesterday morning of what they had found. I've taken steps to set up our own independent audit into the tissue samples and I'm told that Defra [Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs] will establish its own audit," Professor Bostock said. "We were certainly of the view that the samples were fundamentally of sheep origin. I'm not prepared to discuss the results of the [BSE in sheep] experiment because they are now uninterpretable," he said.
However, Professor Smith said that although the experiment was not simple to interpret, some of the features of the results that he is aware of indicated that a "BSE-like" agent was present in the brain tissue. "But that now goes out of the window," Professor Smith said. (warmwell note: does this paragraph make sense?)
The experiment began in early 1997 and involved testing for the presence of BSE in what was then believed to be a pooled collection of 2,860 brains of sheep that had died of scrapie, a related brain disease to BSE, between 1990 and 1992. If BSE had spread to sheep during the late 1980s, when sheep were fed the same contaminated feed that infected cattle, there was a strong possibility that the pooled collection of brains would indicate the presence of BSE. (warmwell note: if indeed the cause of BSE was "contaminated feed", another assumption) The complicated experiment was carried out by scientists at the Institute for Animal Health's Neuropathogenesis Unit in Edinburgh. It involved injecting the brain material into different strains of laboratory mice which would incubate the disease in a precise pattern if BSE was present. Professor Bostock said that two tests early on in the experiment indicated that the material was at least predominantly sheep brains as there had always been a concern of cross contamination given that the brains were collected for another experiment at a time when scientists used the same instruments to collect both sheep and cattle brains. (warmwell note: No. Can't follow this sentence either)
However, early in September samples of the brain material were sent to the Laboratory of the Government Chemist for DNA analysis. It is these results that demonstrated unequivocally that the brain tissue came only from cattle, with no traces of sheep tissue present.
Oct 19

Rural groups 'want a full public inquiry'
Telegraph

THE Tories called on the Government yesterday to hold a full public inquiry into foot and mouth because every rural body wanted one. Ann Winterton, from the shadow agriculture team, said: "The outbreak has cost taxpayers almost £2 billion and surely they have a right to learn the truth and how the Government proposes to prevent infections from being re-imported into the United Kingdom in the near future? "Bearing in mind the millions of animals slaughtered as a result of the foot and mouth outbreak, why has the Government set its face against holding a full, independent public inquiry into the cause and handling of the outbreak?" Margaret Beckett, the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary, brushed aside the call and said a full public inquiry would be costly and time-consuming. "Whenever anybody wants an inquiry into anything, everybody always says that what they want is a full public inquiry and very rarely do people define what they mean by those terms," she said. The Government had proposed an inquiry structure with three independent components. The call in the Commons yesterday during Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs questions followed a similar plea in the Lords on Wednesday.
Oct 19

£24m farm aid package 'too little, too late'
Telegraph

BOTH Tory and Labour backbenchers criticised the Government announcement yesterday that it would provide £24 million to help businesses affected by the foot and mouth outbreak. One Tory MP described the money as "too little, too late" while a Labour MP said he was disappointed about the size of the amount. ........
Tim Collins (C, Westmorland and Lonsdale) said the people of Cumbria had been through a terrible time during the past nine months and he accused the Government of offering "too little, too late". He also warned that businesses in the area could go bankrupt. Eric Martlew (Lab, Carlisle) said he was impressed by the report but Lord Haskins had recommended that £40 million should be made available for business recovery in Cumbria and Mrs Beckett had only announced £24 million. He hoped that she would have talks with the Treasury to make more money available. "I am rather disappointed that you have announced only£24 million," he said. "Will you have discussions with the Treasury to see if that extra money is available because, without extra money soon, good businesses in Cumbria and throughout the country will go bankrupt?" Mrs Beckett said that she accepted his concerns and his disappointment "that I'm not, at once, able to give the full sum Lord Haskins has identified" although it was a "step in the right direction". But Peter Ainsworth, the new shadow environment, food and rural affairs spokesman, said the Cumbria foot and mouth task force estimated that at least £150 million of assistance was needed. "There are many businesses in Cumbria that will not survive the winter without very urgent extra help." Mr Ainsworth said farmers were very dependent on livestock markets and urged ministers to reaffirm their support for them, despite the report's recommendations that they needed to be better regulated. "The main opponents of livestock markets are the big food processing companies such as Northern Foods run by Lord Haskins." Mrs Beckett said other bodies had made a range of recommendations on aid, some running into hundreds of millions of pounds. "My understanding is that one of Lord Haskins's observations is that he has urged those making such recommendations to be more realistic." She said the recommendation on livestock markets would be examined. Archy Kirkwood (Lib Dem, Roxburgh and Berwickshire) wanted to know whether the £24 million was specifically targeted at Cumbria. Mrs Beckett said it was for Cumbria and other areas but that the "lion's share" would go to Cumbria. Nicholas Winterton (C, Macclesfield) criticised the choice of Lord Haskins as the report's author. "He is not a particularly successful farmer himself and his company isn't very friendly to the farming industry. Does it come well from a man like Lord Haskins to hector livestock farmers who work 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 12 months in the year?" he said. Mrs Beckett replied: "As to your contention that Lord Haskins is not popular in the countryside. I think a succession of ministers of agriculture would like to know how that is to be achieved." .... (warmwell note: we think we can help the Minister here. Instant popularity could be gained by the removal of absurd restrictions, of meddling, interference, red tape and incomprehensible form-filling exercises.)
Oct 19

BSE scientists spend five years testing wrong brains
Anaova

The Government has admitted scientists trying to find out if BSE has infected sheep have mistakenly been testing the brains of cows instead. The government-funded Institute of Animal Health in Edinburgh had been conducting tests on what was believed to be sheep tissue for the past five years. The blunder was only discovered after DNA checks by the Laboratory of the Government Scientist. Inquiries into how the mix-up happened have now been launched by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the institute. The results of the testing, which looked like they proved that BSE had crossed over and infected sheep, were due to be to presented to the Government's Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee (Seac) on Friday but were withdrawn. Defra made a brief announcement on Wednesday saying only that there was a possibility the sheep material had been "contaminated" by cattle brains but a spokesman now says it is true that the tests had been carried out on cow brains and not sheep brains. "As to how it happened, that is the question we are asking," the spokesman said. "What the cross-checking showed was that the samples came from the wrong animal." Professor Peter Smith, chairman of Seac, told The Daily Telegraph he was "amazed" by the mistake. He added: "It is a fairly disastrous error. It is an amazing result that no one expected."
Oct 19

Hopes raised as farming holds breath over tests
Yorkshire Post

................. One possibility is that it hides in sheep, which do not always show obvious symptoms. Mass testing of sheep is still going on and any which have foot-and-mouth antibodies are slaughtered as a precaution, even though they have probably come through to a non-infectious condition. An additional test, involving a tonsil swab, reveals whether the sheep is still actually breathing out the virus and none of those has been positive recently. And in the Carlisle case now under investigation there have been no sheep near the farm since the last outbreak in that area, which was stopped at the end of March. There are suspicions that deer and hedgehogs have caught the virus but Defra has so far taken the view that it is unlikely to be passed back to farm stock from wildlife.
Oct 19

£15,000 needed to fund legal fight against cull
icWales

A TEACHER appealing against refusal of a judicial review of the Government's foot-and-mouth cull policy says she is in desperate need of money to continue the action. Janet Hughes has received more than £9,000 in donations and has spent £13,000 of her own money. But she needs at least another £15,000 after she learned she was not eligible for legal aid. She is also appealing against a High Court Judge's refusal of her application for a judicial review of the National Assembly's handling of the crisis and an application for an injunction to stop the cull. .... "But donations seem to have totally dried up. I haven't had any money in since October 8. People probably think it is all over, but it's far from over. I have to see this thing through," said Miss Hughes. She explained that if she were to stop the appeal she would have to pay Defra and the Assembly's court costs of £16,800. "It's an impossible situation. I'm really hoping that more donations will come into the Save Our Sheep Appeal either direct to me or at the Nationwide Building Society. "If they don't, I may end up having to represent myself at the appeal hearing, which won't help my case. "I really need to be represented by a QC to have the best chance of success," said Miss Hughes.
Oct 19

'Overkill' on sheep cull attacked
icWales

FOOT-AND-MOUTH experts claim that more than half the sheep slaughtered in Wales in the foot-and-mouth crisis were killed unnecessarily. Almost 350,000 animals, including 304,847 sheep, have been slaughtered on infected premises, contiguous farms and as dangerous contacts in Wales. But Dr Paul Kitching, who was head of Pirbright Laboratory until May, has said it is impossible to diagnose foot-and-mouth disease in sheep from visual signs alone. And Dr Ruth Watkins, a former head of the diagnostic virology laboratory at St Mary's Hospital, yesterday said she believed at least half the sheep slaughtered in Wales need not have been killed. "I fully agree with Dr Kitching. There are very few infections and illnesses where you can be absolutely sure clinically," said Dr Watkins. She said vets who saw clinical symptoms of foot-and-mouth disease should have sent specimens to laboratories for diagnosis. The suspect sheep could have been kept in quarantine on home farms while the results came. "An attempt should have been made to confirm the diagnoses as there can be a whole number of reasons why sheep can have ulceration in the mouth. "I would like to know how many of the 118 cases in Wales were diagnosed on clinical symptoms in sheep and how many of these were actually confirmed positive by laboratory testing. "I think the answer is likely to be that there wasn't really that much infection and that over half the sheep slaughtered in Wales need not have been," said Dr Watkins. The slaughter policy based on visual symptoms alone had caused untold misery for farmers. "The affected farm was slaughtered, which led to other farms being slaughtered and still more being subject to Form D notices. If more resources had been put into diagnostic laboratories and they had been used properly, I'm sure a lot of this would not have been necessary." A National Assembly spokeswoman said all animals confirmed as having the disease were initially confirmed on clinical signs. She said, "Vets finding symptoms of foot-and-mouth disease contacted the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) veterinary service, which decided whether the disease should be confirmed or not." She could not say how many of the 118 cases in Wales were confirmed on visual symptoms or how many subsequently proved negative.
(warmwell note; and this is one of the most urgent questions that needs to be answered)
"The priority has always been to eradicate the disease and the policy that was adopted has proved successful."
(warmwell note: Successful? If over half the animals taken from farmers and killed were healthy? If the statistical data that led to this culling by computer were fatally flawed? If clinical diagnoses by inexperienced vets were not confirmed by testing? When grow men wept with sorrow at seeing their stock perish?) Alan Morris, of the Farmers' Union of Wales, said, "It was a time of severe crisis and difficult decisions had to be made. But we are still pressing for a full public inquiry so all the diverse views can be heard and we can see whether the right decisions were taken." Leigh Roberts, of NFU Cymru, said, "That mistakes were made in dealing with foot-and-mouth disease there is a little doubt. That is why we need a full and independent public inquiry." sue.goddard@wme.co.uk
Oct 18

Farmers 'face winter hardship'
BBC

The government's rural recovery co-ordinator has warned that farmers and tourism businesses will face serious problems during the winter in areas badly hit by foot-and-mouth. Lord Haskins calls for an extra £40m to be put into the government's business recovery fund - about half of it in Cumbria - in a report published on Thursday. The call came as the Environment Secretary, Margaret Beckett, announced a £24m extension to the fund for the worst affected regions. Lord Haskins - appointed by Prime Minister Tony Blair in July - also calls for special short-term compensation to be considered for farmers unable to sell their livestock outside their local areas. The National Farmers' Union said the report identified the breadth of support needed to charge the rural recovery, said its effectiveness would depend on how much was put in to practice, and how quickly. .... Many farmers have seen their businesses collapse since the epidemic was discovered last February. The knock-on effects have also been devastating for tourism. The report says that most farmers and businesses have coped better than might have been expected. Commissioned when the disease was at its height, the report focuses on foot-and-mouth blackspots like Cumbria, the South West, North East and North Yorkshire. In Cumbria alone 3,000 farms have lost their animals and 60% of the land is without livestock, while the tourist industry is believed to have lost £200m. Cumbrian farmer John Raine told BBC News: "Next winter is going to be pretty cold, and we are really going to need some short-term measures to help us through that period. "But we are also looking for some answers to the long-term problems agriculture is facing." But Lord Haskins blueprint for the longer term favours removing many farming subsidies to promote a more commercial approach - even if it means fewer farmers. ............. Liberal Democrat agriculture spokesman Colin Breed said the party welcomed Lord Haskins' recognition that farmers needed short-term help. But he said the call for farmers to be more enterprising was an insult. "Lord Haskins should look to government policy in respect of the uncompetitive pound, the lashings of red tape and the appeasement of the greed of supermarkets before criticising the agricultural industry," he said. Lord Haskins is also calling for much greater co-operation between farmers and rural agencies. Foot-and-mouth, BSE and collapsing farm incomes are pushing farmers towards short-term survival measures which may have longer-term implications for the environment, says the Environment Agency. ....http://www.defra.gov.uk/footandmouth/rural/taskforce/haskins.pdf To access the Haskins report
Oct 18

Haskins unveils rural recovery plan
Farmers Weekly

LORD HASKINS has recommended that the government sets up a £40 million fund to help the countryside recover from foot-and-mouth. The recommendation is made in the Labour peer's long-awaited proposals for a rural recovery which were published on Thursday (18 October). Foot-and-mouth movement restrictions should be relaxed so that farmers can move stock in and out of high-risk counties like Cumbria, the report says. The government should fund a scheme to get feed on to farms in crisis-hit areas such as Cumbria, it adds. Farmers should receive free business advice. The report also recommends that ministers do more to get European Union aid to businesses which were affected by foot-and-mouth in the farm supply chain. It calls for the introduction of more flexibility with regard to rural planning and urges ministers to "go slow" on future farm regulation. Government help is more likely to be forthcoming if rural businesses and groups make more effort to help themselves by working together, the report says. A number of livestock markets will close, the document predicts. Farmers must be more disciplined if they want to ensure the survival of the remaining auctions. "Playing the markets by taking a few animals from one market to the next must end," Lord Haskins told FARMERS WEEKLY. The government should reduce excess sheep numbers by introducing a one-off scheme to buy sheep quota from farmers to reduce the national flock. "The aim is to cut out overstocking because there are far too many sheep. Nobody can sell them - it's a shambles," Lord Haskins said. The countryside should be completely re-opened after Christmas regardless of the foot-and-mouth situation in a bid to boost non-farming rural businesses.
Oct 18

Rural economy must be restructured'
Farmers Weekly

THE foot-and-mouth recovery plan unveiled by Lord Haskins fails to address issues preventing a restructuring of the rural economy, say organic farmers. Soil Association head of agriculture Phil Stocker said the future of UK farming could not be assured without well-planned, long term measures. "The recommendations will prop up the rural economy in the short term, but fail to address some of the fundamental issues needed to restructure it. "We now need to look at moving towards more local and sustainable farming systems and to decentralise the food chain. Mr Stocker said there was a desperate need for the government to help farmers make a fresh start by converting to organic production.
Oct 18

Peers demand inquiry into foot and mouth
Telegraph

More cases of foot and mouth likely, says Beckett TORY peers pressed the Government to change its mind and hold a full-scale public inquiry into the foot and mouth outbreak. Lord Inglewood, who spoke of the impact of the disease in Cumbria, said: "I regret that there is not going to be a full public inquiry. Many Cumbrians believe the Government has something to cover up and, understandably after what they have gone through, that is causing real resentment. "What has occurred in Cumbria is an economic downturn and there has been widescale destruction of assets and wealth." He was speaking during a debate on the need for a strategy for the recovery of the countryside, tourism and rural businesses in the aftermath of the crisis. The Government has strongly resisted holding a public inquiry, but instead will appoint a commission to look into the causes of the outbreak once it is officially over. Lord Judd (Lab), a vice-president of the Council of National Parks and a member of the North West Regional Committee of the National Trust, said farmers complained about the amount of paperwork they had to do. He wondered who would replace ageing farmers to carry out new ideas. Paperwork was a problem: "It takes up at least a day a week and the amount of time they spend on it is obviously increasing. With average subsidies of £30,000 a year and average incomes of some £6,000 a year or less in many instances, this inevitably influences agricultural performance. Lord Ferrers (C) predicted that the countryside would continue to suffer as long as the public believed it was "full of disease and burning carcasses". He pressed for a full public inquiry, not to conduct a witch-hunt against the Government, but to learn lessons from the outbreak. Lord Mackie (Lib Dem) called for help for farmers who needed to fight competition from those abroad who used agricultural practices that lowered the price of their produce. "It puts our farmers at an unfair disadvantage," he said. In the aftermath of the foot and mouth outbreak, he told the Government: "We have to spend more money for a more competent and a larger official veterinary body looking after the health of the cattle, sheep and cows of this country." Lord Skidelsky, who this week decided to leave Tory benches and become a Crossbencher, said the country could not safely rely any longer on foreign imports to meet food requirements. The case "for growing as much of one's food as possible" had also been strengthened.
The Rt Rev Ian Cundy, the Bishop of Peterborough, said in his maiden speech that the effects of foot and mouth disease, although devastating, had only accelerated processes already under way. "The economic shape of agriculture will inevitably change and the pattern of subsidy has already changed to encourage a lower level of stocking and to promote an environmentally friendly approach. "I believe farmers deserve our thanks more than our criticism for their care of the environment. "So-called green farming must be profitable if it is going to survive and farm gate prices must reflect more closely the price we pay in our supermarket-driven economy." Farmers have received more than #1 billion in compensation for the foot and mouth outbreak, Elliot Morley, the junior environment, food and rural affairs minister, said last night. The figure included £26 million for items seized and destroyed, such as hay, feed and fodder, stated the Commons written reply.
Oct 18

Minister resists foot-and-mouth public inquiry call
Anannova

The Government has come under renewed pressure from the Tories to hold a full public inquiry into the foot-and-mouth crisis. Shadow agriculture minister Ann Winterton told the House of Commons every single rural organisation has called for the inquiry. Margaret Beckett, the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary, said a full public inquiry would be costly and extremely time-consuming. Mrs Winterton said at Question Time: "Bearing in mind the millions of animals slaughtered as a result of the foot-and-mouth outbreak, why has the Government set its face against holding a full, independent public inquiry into the cause and handling of the outbreak?" "The outbreak has cost taxpayers almost £2 billion and surely they have a right to learn the truth and how Government proposes to prevent infections from being re-imported into the United Kingdom in the near future." Margaret Beckett said: "Whenever anybody wants an inquiry into anything everybody always says that what they want is a full public inquiry and very rarely do people define what they mean by those terms." The Government had proposed an inquiry structure with three separate independent components.
Oct 18

Foot-and-mouth peril 'not over yet'
Yorkshire Post

Fears of a foot-and-mouth resurgence were raised yesterday by Government farms supremo Margaret Beckett, amid reports of a new outbreak of the disease. ........ ..her department said there was "verbal confirmation" of a new case near Carlisle, in Cumbria, and said epidemiologists would issue a full report today. But Mrs Beckett swept aside disquiet even from Labour MPs over Prime Minister Tony Blair's refusal to call a full public inquiry into the foot-and-mouth epidemic. And she came close to excusing officials from blame during the nine-month crisis, hitting out at the "growing modern culture that if anything goes wrong, someone must be to blame and we have to find that person to blame and pillory. ...... She told the Commons' environment, food and rural affairs committee that Mr Blair's decision to set up three separate behind-closed-doors inquiries was "actually a better and more effective way" to approach the problem. But East Yorkshire Tory MP Greg Knight later told the Yorkshire Post of mounting demands from local farmers for a public inquiry, and declared that "justice has to be seen to be done". Foot-and-mouth peril 'not over yet' Mrs Beckett also risked the wrath of farmers by describing them at one point as not a "happy bunch of bunnies" even before foot-and-mouth struck. ...... .. She also effectively denied that animal vaccination had been any alternative to the controversial slaughter programme, even though Carlisle Labour MP Eric Martlew warned her that Cumbria would not tolerate a repeat of the mass cull. But chief vet Jim Scudamore confirmed that a contingency mass vaccination had been considered "very seriously" to protect the huge pig herds of Humberside and East Yorkshire following the Thirsk outbreaks of the disease. The plan had now been stood down following the lack of new cases over the last two weeks, he said.
Oct 18

Paper goes to court over F&M
icWales

THE Western Mail is taking legal action against the Government over its refusal to hold a full public inquiry into the foot-and-mouth crisis. The legal challenge will be headed by a leading barrister and farmer, Richard Lissack QC, who has played a part in several high-profile inquiries, including those into the Bristol Royal Infirmary baby-parts scandal and the Ladbroke Grove train crash. Backing up the legal move is a 100,000-signature petition calling for a full public inquiry spearheaded by The Western Mail along with the Western Morning News in Plymouth and Farmers' Weekly, which have agreed to underwrite the costs should the legal action fail. A legal letter written on behalf of farmers and businesses who have suffered because of the disease and expressing the need for a public inquiry has been sent to Margaret Beckett, Secretary of State for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). It states that if the Government refuses to grant a full public inquiry, Mr Lissack and his legal team will start proceedings for a judicial review. The letter also says that the three separate inquiries announced by the Government would not be public or independent. Should the Government continue to refuse to hold a full public inquiry, then a judge will be asked whether or not a judicial review should go ahead. If the judge decides a judicial review is necessary, the case could be heard in court within a matter of weeks. A Defra spokesman said last night that the three independent inquiries would "report back in a speedier fashion than a full public inquiry, which could take up to 18 months to two years to complete".
Oct 18

Beckett warns of further outbreaks of foot-and-mouth
Independent

The foot-and-mouth epidemic is far from over and it would be "a miracle" if there was not a further outbreak this autumn, Margaret Beckett, the Rural Affairs Secretary, warned yesterday. After 16 days without a recorded case, which has raised hopes that the epidemic may be on the wane, Mrs Beckett said livestock movements around the country could create a "real danger" of a resurgence of the epidemic. But giving evidence to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee yesterday, she said MPs should not be overoptimistic, and that lifting restrictions on animal movements was still a danger. "It will be a miracle if we get through the autumn and winter without seeing a resurgence. We fully recognise that it is by no means over and biosecurity measures will continue for a very considerable period of time," Mrs Beckett said. The Secretary of State risked angering farmers by blaming them for prolonging the epidemic. She said that government vets and civil servants had made a "heroic" effort to stamp out the epidemic. But she said that farmers' reluctance to kill their animals had meant that targets for slaughtering infected stock and animals in surrounding areas were not always met. The Rural Affairs Secretary expressed her sympathy with farmers and rural businesses who had suffered in the crisis. However Mrs Beckett said that further cash handouts, on top of the £1bn of compensation for foot-and-mouth cases, were unlikely. Mrs Beckett rejected calls from MPs for a public inquiry into the outbreak and said that she did not agree individual ministers and civil servants should be taken to task. "It is extremely important that we learn the lessons of how it was handled," she said. Mrs Beckett said a report would be published today by Lord Haskins, Tony Blair's rural recovery co-ordinator, on measures to revive the economy of Cumbria.
Oct 18

No sign of BSE in sheep - Defra
Ananova

(warmwell note: we would be happier with this headline if the government had not merely "postponed" the release of test results. The term "government scientists" no longer reassures us) Tests to discover whether BSE is affecting currently sheep have so far shown no signs of the disease, according to Government scientists. But further research to establish whether it was in the UK flock in the early 1990s may be flawed, according to the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). Samples taken from sheep at the time may have become contaminated and the release of the test results, scheduled for Friday, has now been postponed. Scientists have previously expressed fears that BSE may have been passed between cows and sheep because it behaves like the sheep disease scrapie. Lucian Hudson, director of the communications directorate at Defra, said: "Research has been under way for some time to see if it can be established whether BSE might have been present in the sheep flock in the early 1990s and masked as scrapie. "Some work has also been undertaken by the Veterinary Laboratories Agency. They have been seeking to establish whether BSE might be in sheep now. "The results so far on about 180 TSE (Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy) affected brains have not shown BSE. "The work on material from the early 1990s has been conducted by the Institute for Animal Health (IAH) and it was anticipated that some results would be ready to present to the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee (SEAC) on Friday. "However Defra, who commissioned the work, also commissioned cross-checking to guard against the possibility of material being contaminated by cattle brains, not least because it had been collected for entirely different experiments. "This cross-checking has indeed raised doubts about the viability of the original sample and the SEAC chairman decided that Friday's meeting should be postponed."
Oct 18

Phoenix the calf's owners to give up farming
Ananova

The owners of Phoenix the calf are giving up farming because of the foot-and-mouth crisis. The animal made world headlines by surviving a cull in east Devon. She will remain at the farm with her owners. The calf was just five-days-old when she survived the contiguous cull in which other healthy cattle, including her mother, were slaughtered at Clarence Farm in Membury. Her owners, Philip Board, 42, and his 35-year-old wife Michaela, twice refused to allow vets to cull the Charolais. Phoenix was finally saved by a change in government policy which allowed her to live after coming through a 21-day quarantine period. Now Mr and Mrs Board, who had raised 70 cattle and sheep on 35 acres which has been in the family for 60 years, have decided they have had enough. "We are just fed up with it, all the red tape and the filling in of forms," said Mrs Board. "We are just going to have a few animals to keep Phoenix and the pony Teddy company, and cut silage on the land," said Mrs Board, who works with children with special needs. Mr Board will continue to run his heavy plant contracting firm from the farm.
Oct 18

Virus could return, warns Beckett
Farmers Weekly

... Mrs Beckett was responding to a question from the House of Commons Agriculture Select Committee on Wednesday (17 October). "It will be a miracle if we get through the autumn movement period without a resurgence of the disease," she told MPs. Committee chairman David Curry had asked Mrs Beckett when it would be possible for farmers to say that the epidemic was over. Chief Veterinary Officer Jim Scudamore said the government was working out the criteria for when England and Wales could be declared disease-free. "When we have had no disease in the country for three months, will be one criterion, and when all counties are disease-free will be another," he said. Mr Scudamore warned that there may have to be more blood tests of livestock in some areas to demonstrate that the virus has disappeared. Sixteen days have now passed since the last case of foot-and-mouth on 30 September. However some animals have been slaughtered as a precaution. More than 100 counties and unitary authorities were now disease-free. Only two counties have had outbreaks in the past four weeks.
Oct 17

MP launches Bill to legalise cannabis
Ananova

A Labour MP has launching a Private Member's Bill to legalise personal use of cannabis. Jon Owen Jones argues that beleaguered British farmers could grow it as a cash crop. He says the measure will remove criminals from cannabis production and could provide a hardy cash crop for British farmers. The Cardiff Central MP's Legalisation of Cannabis Bill is due to be debated in the House of Commons next week, but is highly unlikely to become law. However, it comes after a noticeable shift in public attitudes to the drug. The Bill would legalise the personal cultivation of cannabis and its use for therapeutic and recreational purposes. A Government licensing system would also be set up for commercial cultivation of cannabis and for international trade in the drug. Mr Jones said: "All over the world it is becoming clear that cannabis use is a fact of life and trying to deal with it through the criminal justice system is absurd. ....... (warmwell note: why has the word "soma" suddenly occurred to us, along with the words "Community, Identity, Stability"?) "Our drug laws are arcane and outdated. As the Home Secretary himself has hinted, they need urgent review.". .......
Oct 17

Court Action Threat
Press Association

Farmers across the country are preparing to take the Government to court if their call for a public inquiry into the foot-and-mouth crisis is refused, it was revealed today. A letter calling for a public hearing has been sent on their behalf to the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary Margaret Beckett. If the Government refuses to grant a full inquiry, legal proceedings for a judicial review will begin, headed by leading barrister and farmer Richard Lissack QC. Solicitor Tim Russ said today that a dozen farmers who had suffered in the crisis - from Devon, Cumbria, Northumbria and North Yorkshire - were involved in the initiative and others from Wales were also expected to join in. Devon-based vet Wendy Vere, who gave evidence to the county's own recent week-long public inquiry into the crisis, was also involved, said Mr Russ. The letter sent to the Secretary of State from Mr Russ' firm, Taunton-based Clarke Willmott and Clarke, pointed out that 2,030 cases of foot-and-mouth were recorded in the world's worst outbreak of the disease. "The general public has a legitimate interest in there being a full inquiry into all aspects of foot-and-mouth.
Oct 17

Japan attempts to calm mad cow fear
CNN

TOKYO, Japan -- In a bid to restore consumer confidence, the Japanese government will withhold details of suspected cases of mad cow disease until they have been confirmed, an official has told the Associated Press. Since authorities confirmed the first case of mad cow disease in September, sales of beef have plummeted, even after reassurances and extensive screening of cattle by health officers. A second suspected case, found recently in Tokyo's central wholesale meat market which supplies meat to the whole country, eventually resulted in a negative test for the disease. .....A nationwide survey of more than 1,100 people released by the mass-circulation Asahi newspaper has found that one in four Japanese has stopped eating beef. The sales slump in Japan has also had a knock on effect in Australia, a major exporter of beef to Japan. "The effects of confirmation of BSE (mad cow disease) in Japan and the terrorist attacks in the U.S. on September 11 have led to (beef) price reductions of up to 20 percent in recent weeks," Rob Anderson of the New South Wales Farm Association told Reuters. (warmwell note: this news story also says, as if this were scientifically proved fact, which it is not, "Scientists have found links between beef infected with mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy, and the variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, which is fatal to humans." We find this assumption alarming. One single case of "BSE" in Japan has resulted in a huge sales slump, not only in Japan, but also in Australia, a major exporter of beef to Japan. It raises all sorts of questions.)
Oct 17

Ministers 'ignoring Exmoor'
Western Daily Press

TWO West MPs have accused ministers of ignoring a looming crisis on Exmoor farms. Conservatives Ian Liddell-Grainger, of Bridgwater, and Adrian Flook, of Taunton, say they plan to make a plea to DEFRA secretary Margaret Beckett to break a deadlock which means calves are not being processed by the livestock market at Cutcombe.
Oct 17

Virus will bring end of world
SMH.com.au

The human race is likely to be wiped out by a doomsday virus before the millennium is out, unless we set up colonies in space, Professor Stephen Hawking has warned. The world's best known cosmologist said in an interview that biology, rather than physics, was throwing up the biggest challenge to human survival. .......... "In the long term I am more worried about biology. Nuclear weapons need large facilities, but genetic engineering can be done in a small lab. You can't regulate every lab in the world. "The danger is that, either by accident or design, we create a virus that destroys us. ...... "But I'm an optimist. We will reach out to the stars," said Professor Hawking,....... See yesterday's Telegraph article: Colonies in space may be only hope, says Hawking
Oct 17

EU schemes to preserve wildlife 'failing'
Financial Times

European Union projects to make farming more sensitive to wildlife and the environment, a crucial part of plans to reform the common agricultural policy, have largely failed, Dutch scientists have said. A study of EU agri-environment projects in the Netherlands showed they had no beneficial effect on protecting birdlife and other forms of biodiversity, said ecologists from Wageningen University. Their conclusions, published on Tuesday in the science magazine Nature, could undermine efforts by the Commission and member states such as Britain to replace production subsidies with payments to farmers for environmental projects. About 4 per cent of CAP revenues - E1.7bn ($1.56bn) a year - are spent on such schemes. This is to rise to 10 per cent soon as production subsidies are reduced. The scientists said problems implementing the projects, including lack of scientific supervision, meant many had failed to achieve their objectives, particularly that of increasing bird populations. Bumble bee populations, however, had increased. The scientists said the motivation and expertise of the farmers might have a crucial role. "The primary concern of farmers is to secure an income. As a result, nature conservation will be of secondary importance to them, and will be fitted into a farming system that, owing to economic pressure, is still increasing in intensity."
However, the findings were strongly disputed by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Europe's largest wildlife charity, which is introducing such schemes in Britain. .....
Both the Dutch scientists and RSPB agreed the success of projects depended upon their proper evaluation. The Dutch said: "It is imperative to evaluate current schemes in all participating countries and to ensure any new scheme is accompanied by a scientifically sound evaluation plan." Dr Gibbons said: "We have had this argument with the British government. The Treasury wants action on the ground, not long-term monitoring. Governments want to promote systems and don't want to go back and see whether they work or not."
Oct 17

Fiddling While The UK Industry Burns
appliederivatives.com

While continental European farmers were busily covering what livestock price exposure they could, farmers in Britain, where the outbreak was most widespread, were and still are struggling to keep up with government edicts about closing off their land, restrictions on movement of animals, culls, and disinfection. There are no derivatives markets for livestock in the UK, although lamb and live pig and cattle futures were tried on London's FOX exchange without success some years ago. The only method of transparent price discovery for cattle, pigs and sheep is the open auction system where animals are transported to markets around the country and sold off. With restrictions and some outright bans on moving livestock, farmers resorted to the direct delivery, or "dead weight" method of sale which involves buyers sending a representative to view livestock before it is bought. Where buyers and sellers have an existing relationship, they often just deal over the telephone. "The live auction system accounted for 45% of cattle sales in the UK before the crisis, dead weight sales made up around 52%, and the remaining 3% was traded electronically. Now most trade is dead weight," says Robert Foster, chief executive of the National Beef Association in the UK. Electronic livestock trading has surprisingly not caught on even with the onslaught of foot and mouth. "Electronic trading systems for cattle have been around in the UK for about ten years, but they have never really taken off, possibly because it is really no cheaper than dead weight trading, and also because the industry is slow to accept change," Foster adds. "You would be hard-pressed to find a more disorganised market than the prime stock market in the UK; and with restrictions on live auctions, the cattle trade is in even more disarray than it was before the crisis happened. There is no price transparency and no pricing mechanism," Foster says. In fact, many farmers are selling their cattle for less than they cost to produce, a situation that is clearly not sustainable. The pricing problems result partly from producers not knowing their own costs and partly from processing companies and retail outlets pushing prices down, Foster explains. If farmers were to charge on a genuine "cost plus" basis, prices would rise by around 30%, he adds, and there are farmers and even some meat processors campaigning for a cost plus pricing system. But while the underlying market is so disorganised, livestock derivatives in the UK will not help the meat industry control its costs. And the prospects for electronic trading in the UK at least still look decidedly grim.
Oct 17

Cumbrian sheep in precautionary cull
Farmers Weekly

ABOUT 100 sheep at farm near Whitehaven, Cumbria, have been slaughtered after blood tests uncovered foot-and-mouth antibodies. The animals were slaughtered as a precaution against the disease. Further blood test results are awaited later this week. Tests are continuing in a bid to determine whether foot-and-mouth had broken out on a farm near Pica, Cumbria, reports the Guardian.
Oct 16

Villagers complain to Blair over Defra
The Journal

Liaison members `not informed'... Villagers caught between two fronts in the foot-and-mouth disposal effort have written to Prime Minister Tony Blair to complain about Government "incompetence". Widdrington Village Parish Council in Northumberland has slammed the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), saying that the problems of foot-and-mouth have not been solved just because no new cases have been discovered in the last two weeks. Widdrington Village lies in between a foot-and-mouth burial site and a pyre where thousands of animal carcases were burnt earlier in the year. Errors in cleaning up the burial and burn sites over the last few weeks have revived tensions with Defra. The parish council's letter says: "....... "In the past few weeks, Defra has totally disillusioned other members of the committee by neglecting to inform them of problems that have arisen. "The ash, we were led to believe, had been totally removed and disposed of, yet it appears that approximately 600 tonnes had been forgotten about and was discovered by the local farmer as he commenced restoration of the site. "The stringent safety measures, which were in place for the original removal of the ash, were totally disregarded as this residual ash was removed. Contractors were observed working on the site without protective clothing and with no regard to disinfectant procedures. "Also, problems occurred on the burial site as rotting carcases were coming to the surface. They were buried in new pits adjacent to the existing ones with the consequent disgusting smell. Defra did not think it necessary to inform residents or the liaison group that this was happening." The parish council also demanded a full public inquiry into the foot-and-mouth outbreak, backing The Journal campaign for an inquiry. ...... A spokesman for Defra said that it was important to the department to maintain its links with the Widdrington community, though this did not mean that it could always do everything villagers wanted. He said: "We're extremely keen that we keep people involved in the Widdrington area because we know there have been issues there. We want to keep people informed, but that doesn't mean that they can have carte blanche on everything they want." (warmwell note: Another amazing comment from Defra. Doing anything at all that the villagers wanted might be a start. How has this government Ministry been allowed to get away with eight months of incompetence and lofty arrogance?) ....... The last confirmed case of foot-and-mouth was diagnosed at Appleby, Cumbria, on September 30, while there has been no spread in the Northumberland blue box zone since September 29 ............. He (Morley) acknowledged that lessons had to be learned from this year's experience, and added: "We will have to look at the whole issue of our contingency plans for an outbreak on this scale and this size. There was now an opportunity to re-examine the size of national flocks, he said "It would certainly be useful if we could look at where there have been problems with the livestock sector in terms of the size of the national flock. (warmwell note: deeply worrying that this is the sort of comment we get abou "lessons to be learned". The systematic eradication of the healthy breeding ewes from the hillsides of Britain suggests that the government has already been attempting to solve, in its own chilling way, " problems with the livestock sector in terms of the size of the national flock". )
Oct 16

Buying local food 'will nourish regions'
Ananova

Buying food that is grown and processed locally could help generate millions of pounds for struggling rural and urban areas of the UK, according to a new report. Local Food Routes, published by the Soil Association - a charity which promotes organic food - calls on consumers to support local organic delivery schemes and buy from farmers' markets. Schools, councils and catering businesses are also encouraged to source local produce where possible. The organisation wants the Government to formulate national policies to help stimulate the production and distribution of food at a local level. Research in Cornwall has shown that for every £10 spent on food sourced locally, £26 is ploughed back into the area but £10 spent at a supermarket sees only £14 reinvested in the local economy. The county's finances would rocket by £1 million a week if every consumer, tourist and business pledged 1% of their spending to Cornish products. The report highlights the supply of good quality local vegetables to residents of high rise estates thanks to a producers' co-operative in the Forth Valley, the food grown for community cafes by allotment gardeners in east London and the transformation of the food culture on Skye in Scotland. Patrick Holden, director of the Soil Association, said: "Local food must be at the heart of rural and urban regeneration and Government strategies are urgently needed to develop regional and local infrastructure to support local food production and marketing. "There is growing support for local, organic produce but in order to decentralise the food chain, policies must be developed to ensure that sustainable supply and demand are stimulated simultaneously." The report, launched during Organic Week, summarises three years' work by Food Futures coalition of 160 UK groups working towards sustainable local food economies. It also marks the start of the Soil Association Eat Organic, Buy Local Campaign. (free organic chocolate if you register during this week)
Oct 16

Fears of foot-and-mouth flare-up
Farmers Weekly

TEST results from sheep in the first suspected case of foot-and-mouth for two weeks are expected to be known on Monday (15 October). About 100 sheep on a farm near Whitehaven, Cumbria, are suspected of having the disease. If so, it would be the first new case since 30 September. A Cumbrian spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said the suspect case came to light on Saturday (13 October). Meanwhile, a half-year report from the English Tourism Council forecasts that the epidemic will cost the industry £2.7 billion this year. UK tourists spent £1.4bn less in England than last year, it says. Countryside minister Elliot Morley is cautiously optimistic that the disease is dying out. But it should be no surprise if the odd case is still found. "We can't rule out altogether that there might be the odd outbreak, but generally all the indications are very positive," he told BBC Radio
Oct 15

SIR WILLIAM STEWART BEHIND VACCINE
Dundee Courier

AS THOUSANDS of frantic Americans besiege chemists and doctors for antibiotics they hope will protect them in the event of large-scale anthrax attacks by terrorists, a UK team led by a scientist formerly influential in Tayside's NHS has developed the world's first effective vaccine against the disease. Sir William Stewart, former chairman of Tayside University Hospitals NHS Trust, led the team in an intensive two-year programme to develop the vaccine after fears during the Gulf war that troops might face biological weapons. Now, the Centre for Applied Microbiology and Research, a special health authority responsible to the Department of Health and based at the Government's Porton Down germ warfare scientific centre, is to supply the vaccine to the Ministry of Defence. The vaccine production unit at Porton Down was refurbished at a cost of over £2 million and has the requirements of a modern pharmaceutical plant. Speaking of the success of the team, Sir William, president of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and Microbiological Research Authority chairman, said, "I'm delighted that a British laboratory has developed this hugely important vaccine, the only lab in the world to do so. "It should help to act as a safeguard for the future, ensuring that anyone who might be exposed to anthrax will be protected." In early September, just over a week from the events which shattered America's faith in its home defences, Sir William spoke prophetically in an address to the British Association Festival of Science in Glasgow when he warned that the UK was vulnerable to future threat from biological warfare. Although referring to the foot-and-mouth outbreak, Sir William said, "At least 30 known microbes in the world could potentially be misused as biological warfare agents. This raises the question of whether Britain is adequately prepared should they ever be unleashed on the country." He called for greater Government emphasis on long-term measures to reduce the risk of biological attack, adding, "We only have to look at the foot-and- mouth episode to see what can go wrong if we are not properly prepared and when a bug is not adequately contained." Sir William warned there was a growing threat on a global scale from microbes, including an increasing pool of man-made genetically modified microbes. He said containment facilities and ready access to world-class experts were essential. (warmwell note: we recall that Sir William Stewart told the Today Programme that Britain should have vaccinated against Foot and Mouth.)
Oct 15

Businesses sue over cost of farm virus
Independent

15 October 2001 Hundreds of businesses are suing the Government for billions of pounds in compensation for revenue lost in the foot-and- mouth crisis. The owners of rural businesses ranging from pubs to coffee shops and hotels to horse trekking have launched the first joint action to recoup losses caused by the disease's catastrophic effect on tourism and the rural economy. The Government has ruled out paying compensation for "consequential losses" as an indirect result of the disease. It has compensated farmers directly affected by the cull, in effect buying animals to destroy them, but there has only been indirect relief for non-agricultural businesses. Powys Rural Business Campaign, which alone represents more than 300 businesses, has instructed London solicitors Class Law to act on its behalf. The firm already represents shareholders in a group action, claiming that the true state of the rail network was hidden from them on privatisation. The move comes as hopes are mounting that the disease may be beaten, with no new cases reported for a fortnight. The legal action would be based on claims that councils closed roads they were not entitled to shut and discriminated against businesses. The group also claims the Government has deprived businesses of their right to property.
Oct 15

Fears of new foot and mouth case
Guardian

Ministers are awaiting results expected today of tests on 100 sheep on a Cumbrian farm. If foot and mouth is confirmed on the farm near Whitehaven it would be the first new case in the the country since September 30, and would dash ministers' cautious hopes that the outbreak has finally ended. "The possible case came to light on Saturday," said a Cumbria spokeswoman for the Department of the Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs yesterday. "It was highlighted in our normal surveillance and blood test procedures." Since foot and mouth emerged in Essex in February, 2,030 case have been confirmed, 892 in Cumbria, the country's worst affected county. Almost 4m cattle have been slaughtered, with around 2,000 still waiting to be killed. (warmwell note: we find it incredible that journalists in nearly all the media are still obediently quoting this ludicrous figure. The true total must be well over 10 million and it is time it came to light.) No new cases have been recorded for two weeks. The most recent confirmed case in Cumbria and the country was at Little Asby near Appleby, an area known as the Penrith spur. ......... On Saturday, many Cumbrian farmers attended a conference near Penrith to discuss the future of farming in the county. "Problems are as bad now, if not worse," said the Rev Bob Wilkinson, one of the organisers. "Farmers who have not had cases of foot and mouth have not been able to move stock or fodder - sometimes not even on their own land. "Those farmers whose cattle have been infected have received compensation. But these others have received nothing at all."
Oct 15

Hopes rise over foot-and-mouth
The Times

NO NEW cases of foot-and-mouth cases have been recorded in the past 14 days, prompting hopes that the epidemic is over, a government minister has said. Infected animals normally show signs of the disease within a fortnight, although the incubation period can be longer. Elliot Morley, a junior minister at the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, said that the signs were good.......
Oct 15

NZ-Iran deal good news for exports
New Zealand Herald

Agriculture officials have signed a breakthrough agreement with Iran which is likely to boost New Zealand exports. MAF executive Tony Zohrab said tension between Western and Islamic countries following terrorism in the US and America's retaliation did not appear to have affected the trade relationship between New Zealand and Islamic Iran. "We were there last week and they were absolutely friendly, and they want to send people over here to be trained and learn about our systems," he said. Dr Zohrab, director of MAF's animal products group director, said the Iranians also saw the signing of the memorandum of understanding as a significant breakthrough. The document will mean simpler and more secure access to Iran for New Zealand animal products including meat, dairy products, fish, wool, skins and hides. "Very few people are visiting that part of the world right now. The Iranians were extremely appreciative of our determination to press on with this work in the face of what's been happening in the region. "It's been a very good development for our exporters, because it means their access to Iranian markets is now much more secure." Iran is among many countries examining import control regimes following a spate of food scares including outbreaks of BSE and foot and mouth disease, and food contamination by E-coli bacteria. Dr Zohrab said importing countries from the US to Iran wanted to understand better the regulatory and food production systems employed by exporting nations such as NZ. Officials of the Iran Veterinary Organisation contacted MAF in January and officials visited Iran in February, May and, finally, last week. ...................... Dr Zohrab said Iranian authorities were also interested in New Zealand's E-Cert electronic certification system. The electronic system is a New Zealand Government guarantee that exports meet the health and food safety conditions of importing countries. It is replacing a cumbersome paper-based system. Canada is the first country to hook up to E-Cert, and Dr Zohrab said Iran would be the second. The system meant that in the event of a problem, such as a food recall, it was possible to trace the product to its origins in minutes, he said. The Iran Veterinary Organisation people were especially impressed with the way E-Cert helped to combat fraudulent use of export certificates.
Oct 15

Hear the CJD/BSE link discussed again on Farming Today
Farming Today


Farm virus policy was chaos
Sunday Telegraph

A FORMER senior vet with the old Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has produced statistical evidence for the first time to highlight the shocking contrast between the Government's handling of the 2001 foot and mouth epidemic and that of Britain's last epidemic 33 years ago. In 1967-8 the average time from first reporting a foot and mouth case to final disinfection of the farm was 19 hours. In 2001 this rose to an astonishing 235 hours, thanks to the incompetence with which Maff interpreted new rules that had been introduced by the European Union. This was a serious factor in allowing the disease to run out of control.
This devastating exposure of Maff's mishandling of the 2001 epidemic comes in a paper by Alan Richardson, a former director of the Sir William Hamilton veterinary laboratory in Australia, who worked for Maff through the 1967-8 epidemic and came out of retirement last March to volunteer his services in helping to deal with the crisis in Cumbria, where he lives.
He paints a hair-raising picture of the bureaucratic chaos he found when he arrived at the Maff regional office in Carlisle, when he and two American volunteers had to buy their own protective clothing, boots and buckets from a local store, while "dozens of computers were being unloaded from a lorry".
However, the centrepiece of his paper is the light it sheds on one of the great puzzles of the 2001 epidemic, which was how the recommendations of the official Northumberland report on the 1967-8 epidemic were stood on their heads. Why were there now such delays at every stage, from diagnosis to slaughter to disposal to disinfection, often allowing days to elapse? Why were carcasses no longer buried on the spot, as Northumberland urged was essential? The answer to these mysteries, as I revealed last March, was that foot and mouth rules had been changed under various EU directives. The significance of Mr Richardson's paper is his confirmation of just how grotesquely these new bureaucratic rules created delays. Thirty years ago, to deal with a suspected outbreak which proved "clinically negative", took two hours on average. In 2001 this was 37 hours. More seriously, in "positive" cases, Mr Richardson shows how the time rose from 19 hours to 10 days or more, giving much greater opportunity for the virus to spread.

Mr Richardson is excoriating about those aspects of the handling of the 2001 epidemic where Maff came up with its own additions to the EU rules: notably its "slaughter on suspicion" policy and the "contiguous cull" under which millions of healthy animals were unnecessarily slaughtered just because they were on farms within "three kilometres" of an "infected premises". These refinements, not included in EU directive 85/511, were introduced in March to conform with the computer model for handling the epidemic devised by Professor Roy Anderson. Mr Richardson concludes that the "contiguous cull" was the idea of "mathematical modellers", who seemed to have no idea of the logistical problems or the distress it would create.
The "slaughter on suspicion" policy, under which vets were "bullied" by Maff headquarters into ordering animals to be destroyed when there was no direct evidence of disease, was "in every respect in breach of the professional code". Should anyone wish to read why Mr Richardson hopes the various official inquiries will have the courage to challenge terms of reference "couched so as to preclude criticism of the Maff/Defra mandarins who have been responsible for this catastrophe", his paper is available on www.warmwell.com.
(warmwell note; we are grateful that this excellent paper by Mr Richardson (and also the warmwell website) have been given coverage by Mr Booker and the Sunday Telegraph)
Oct 14

Pyre spread foot-and-mouth: Vet
Western Daily Press

FOOT-and-mouth was spread by a carcass pyre lit on an infected farm, a vet told a public inquiry yesterday. Unburnt hair and skin from the pyre fell on land around the village of Knowstone, Devon, where a number of cases of the disease were later confirmed, said vet Wendy Vere. Mrs Vere, from Morchard Bishop, Devon, said she had "big bags" of unburned skin and hair, which had also fallen on cars travelling up and down the north Devon link road. Pyres were used to dispose of carcasses despite a report into the 1967-68 outbreak saying that fires should not be lit, she told the inquiry co-ordinated by Devon County Council in Exeter. Inquiry member Eric Ley asked her: "They took no notice of it?" Mrs Vere replied: "Yes." She said she was "horrified" that the Government was not holding a public inquiry. "As taxpayers we are paying for all this blundering. We deserve to know why we are paying so much for it," she said. .........
Oct 14

Computer maroons livestock
Western Daily Press

A COMPUTER meltdown has left furious farmers unable to move their livestock. Despite promises the system for issuing movement licences would be working by now, farmers say they still cannot get hold of the all-important documents. Trading Standards officers across the West have borne the brunt of farmers' anger - but the problem has been caused by the national computer system. Officials in Herefordshire have dumped the electronic equipment and resorted to pen and paper to clear the backlog. DEFRA has repeatedly pledged to solve the problem, but farmers claim there appears to be no end in sight. Autumn Movement Licensing is intended to allow stock to be moved without fear of spreading foot-and-mouth. But a massive backlog has built up in parts of the West, including Herefordshire, and DEFRA is under fire from both farmers' leaders and local authorities. Animal welfare officer Mike Higgins said: "This really is the final straw. The DEFRA computer system should allow us to process applications. "It has been nothing short of a disaster. We have had to refuse applications to move cattle for no good reason - no wonder farmers are angry."
Oct 14

No mad cow link?
Megastar.co.uk

GOOD NEWS, perhaps, for burger eaters. A new investigation into Mad Cow Disease claims there may be no link to Variant CJD - thought to be the human equivalent of the disease. Public Health Medicine expert Dr George Ventners has suggested that CJD has not spread quick enough to be connected to eating infected meat. His theory is that vCJD, which was around long before the BSE epidemic in cows, is just a rare condition that was not documented properly at the outset. He told Radio 4: "When you have a food-born infection you expect the rate at which cases occur to run parallel to the rate at which the population is exposed to infection. That doesn't seem to be happening."
Oct 14

Ministry says 2nd 'mad cow' suspect tested BSE-negative
Daily Yomiuri

...... The initial test on the brain sample that indicated the possibility of BSE infection was conducted Wednesday as part of a ministry-sponsored in-service training program held at its animal quarantine station in Yokohama for workers of local governments' meat inspection centers. The participants conducted the enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) test, which is due to be launched Thursday, on the obex--a mass of nerve fibers in the medulla oblongata, or the brain stem--where prions of an abnormal type that cause BSE are believed to be the most concentrated, ministry officials said. For the training program, body parts believed to be susceptible to invasion by the BSE-causing prions were supplied by the Tokyo market. Body parts from about 26 heads of cattle dressed Wednesday were provided on the day of testing. Initial ELISA tests found that the result for one out of the 26 samples fell in a "gray" area, the officials said. According to the officials, a subsequent ELISA test, which was conducted the next day and applied stricter standards, again turned up inconclusive results. As a result, Prof. Morikazu Shinagawa of the Obihiro University of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine, who had been invited as a guest lecturer to the training program, on Friday conducted a more accurate procedure, the Western blot test, which gave a negative result, the officials said. According to the officials, the second ELISA test was delayed a day as there was concern that inspectors inexperienced in conducting ELISA tests may obtain more positive readings.
Oct 14

Minister `cautiously optimistic' over foot-and-mouth
Ananova

The Government is cautiously optimistic about the progress of the battle against foot-and-mouth disease. Two weeks after the last confirmed case was recorded, Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs minister Elliot Morley said the signs were good. "We are cautiously optimistic. But we would not be surprised if there wasn't the odd case yet," he said. "So therefore it is very important that farmers don't drop their guard, that they keep good standards of biosecurity and regularly inspect their animals ... "We can't rule out altogether that there might be the odd outbreak but generally all the indications are very positive," he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme. He acknowledged that lessons had to be learned from this year's experience, and went on: "We will have to look at the whole issue of our contingency plans for an outbreak on this scale and this size." There was now an opportunity to re-examine the size of national flocks. "It would certainly be useful if we could look at where there have been problems with the livestock sector in terms of the size of the national flock ... and if we can take the opportunity of the re-stocking and restructuring which will have to come of tackling some of these issues then that will be to the benefit of everybody," he added. ( ' " to the benefit of everybody, Comrades..", said Squealer')
Oct 13

Pyres fallout spread disease, says vet
The Times

FOOT-AND-MOUTH disease was spread by debris from burning carcasses, a vet told a public inquiry yesterday. Wendy Vere described how unburnt hair and skin from one pyre fell around the village of Knowstone in Devon, where several cases of the disease were confirmed later. She said she was 100 per cent certain that the virus that causes foot-and-mouth could be spread by contact with hair from infected animals, despite the Ministry of Agriculture's view that there was no risk.
Mrs Vere, who has a practice in Morchard Bishop, Devon, said that she collected bags of "great big lumps" of unburnt skin and hair from pyres and that similar debris had fallen on cars on the North Devon link road. She told the inquiry being held by Devon County Council that over-zealous civil servants had been responsible for "carnage by computer" when they ordered contiguous culls without taking local conditions into account. The result was the unnecessary slaughter of tens of thousands of animals on farms that bordered infected premises, but were, in reality, separated. In one case, a farm was ruled to be contiguous even though it was six fields and a road away from the nearest infection.
Mrs Vere said:"Each farm has a holding number and the farms around it have holding numbers, but in reality the animals could be many miles away and separated by arable fields, woods or rivers. "The person in London will just see the numbers and say they have to be taken out. That was why it was carnage by computer. They were taken out without any local knowledge and in some cases there was no more disease risk than if they had been on the other side of the county." She added:"In the past six months I have seen more animal welfare issues and more distressed colleagues and farmers than I ever dreamt possible. It has been a horrific experience."
Oct 13

Foot-and-mouth nears end
Westmorland Gazette

TIM Bennett, deputy president of the NFU, said that with every passing day he was growing more confident that foot-and-mouth was coming to an end.......In spite of his upbeat assessment, Mr Bennett recognised there were pressing problems which needed to be addressed. The weather has gone now and we have got too much stock that cannot be moved. The welfare problems are here and if we do not get stock moved in the next two weeks, preferably in the next week, it is going to get very, very bad, he said. ........ Alan Middleton, from Cowan Bridge in Lancashire, who has animals on land close to the recent Barbon outbreak (warmwell note: what oubreak would that have been? An outbreak of negative tests? An outbreak of cynical cover-ups?) said something had to be done to relieve the growing welare crisis facing stock trapped by movement restrictions. With the onset of winter, he said, the problems were starting to get severe. In ordinary times we would all be in court facing prosecution for animal cruelty, he said. Andrew Sutton, from Longsleddale, said that even if there were no more outbreaks after today, it would take him and most farmers at least 12 months to get back to normal. Harry Hutchinson, from Kirkby Stephen, said he would not feel confident until the auction marts were open for live auctions again. ....
Oct 13

Disease inquiry could impact research funding
Guardian Education

A call for evidence is being issued today by the independent inquiry into foot and mouth and swine fever outbreaks. The Royal Society's independent inquiry into infectious diseases and livestock is trying to assess what lessons researchers and scientists need to learn from the recent farming crises. Conclusions from the inquiry could have real implications for research or university funding, even though the Royal Society is independent of government, because officials including Labour's chief scientific advisor are deeply involved in the process. The inquiry's committee, headed by Sir Brian Follett, completed a detailed description of its aims earlier this week. Today it is asking for suggestions and comments about their main areas of interest: diagnosis, surveillance, prediction, prevention, epidemiology and vaccination. Although there are two government inquiries now looking at farming policy after foot and mouth, the secretary of the Royal Society inquiry, Geoffrey Findlay, says this one will be answering different questions. The government is seeking to work out who should take the blame (warmwell note; is it?) and what policy reactions are best. The society is looking at two questions close to academics' hearts: how many new vets must be trained and what new vaccines need to be developed to prevent future outbreaks of the diseases? "We will look at the short-term questions as well, saying if there is an outbreak now, what should you do? But the most important questions are about what you can be doing on research and training that can help in 10 years," Dr Findlay said. The inquiry is also looking for evidence from livestock farmers about their personal experience, and yesterday received a detailed submission from the Llama Breeders association of the UK, said Dr Findlay.
Oct 13

Protest march postponed
Westmorland Gazette

A MARCH to protest about the Government's handling of the foot-and-mouth crisis has been called off because of security concerns in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks in America and Britain's involvement in retaliatory strikes in Afghanistan. Hundreds of Cumbrians were expected to join others from Yorkshire, Wales, Devon, Worcestershire and the rest of the country in the march from Speaker's Corner at Hyde Park to 10 Downing Street on October 20. Thousands of people had been expected to join the march, during which a nationwide petition in support of vaccination was to be handed in at Downing Street. Regional organiser Viscountess Liz Lowther said the march had been stopped after advice from police in London, but she stressed that it had only been postponed.
Oct 13

Rumours quelled
Westmorland Gazette

(warmwell note: The headline is one of those that are not borne out by the subsequent story. Rumours that the Barbon sheep slaughtered had been negative were not quelled but confirmed) THE man leading the fight against foot-and-mouth in Cumbria has spoken out to quell rumours that the most recent cases of foot-and-mouth disease in the county were not, in fact, foot-and-mouth. Ray Anderson of DEFRA spoke to the Gazette after rumours following the Barbon case on September 26. He confirmed that the Barbon case, an earlier one at Kirby Stephen, and the county's most recent case at Little Asby on September 30, had all returned negative results for blood tests. But he explained the test, which looks for active virus in samples rather than for antibodies, could not be taken as proof positive that the disease was absent. While the test is robust in establishing the presence of virus it is not sufficiently robust to say there is definitely no virus there, he said. We do not test every animal and the test will not always detect a very low level of virus. Although [the results] are encouraging from the point of view that we have failed to isolate virus and we can say there is not a very high level of active virus, we cannot go all the way and say there is no virus there. (warmwell note: in other words, if one interprets this Orwellian Newspeak, these tests were for virus nor for antibodies. None was found. Not a "very low level" but none at all. Just as those for thousands of other healthy animals killed were returned negative. Anderson seems to be saying - "just because we didn't find any virus doesn't mean we were wrong to have killed them" On that lunatic basis DEFRA could feel itself justified in killing all the animals it wants to ) The animals involved were slaughtered as a result of confirmed clinical diagnosis ( warmwell note: according to Dr Paul Kitching last week in Belfast at the BVCA conference, no clinical diagnosis for FMD is foolproof in sheep. Blood testing is essential. But a negative result would seem to make no difference to Defra now. ) in a small number of animals in each case. Mr Anderson said it was not yet clear how the disease had reached Barbon, ( WHAT??? NO evidence of the disease was found at Barbon at all.) but was satisfied that it was an isolated outbreak. He said DEFRA would be making a special effort to lift the 3km restriction zone around Low Bank House Farm as soon as possible. That will depend on blood testing and inspecting susceptible animals in the 3km zone which began on October 19, 21 days after initial cleaning and disinfection. Mr Anderson said in the best case scenario, where all blood tests proved negative, restrictions could even be lifted by the end of October. But he stressed the success of the plan depended on co-operation, not only of farmers, but also of anyone with a pet belonging to susceptible species, including lambs, goats, llamas and cattle. Anyone with a pet which needs inspection or blood testing should call DEFRA at Carlisle on 01228-591999. (warmwell note: This is one of the most extraordinary stories we have read. Also one of the most disturbing)
posted Oct 13

Virus spread by burning carcasses, inquiry told
Ananova

Foot-and-mouth was spread by a carcass pyre lit on an infected farm, a vet has told a public inquiry. Unburnt hair and skin from the pyre fell on land around the village of Knowstone, in Devon. A number of cases of the disease were later confirmed, said vet Wendy Vere. Mrs Vere, from Devon, said she had "great big bags" of unburned skin and hair, which had also fallen on cars travelling up and down the north Devon link road. ....... Mrs Vere said in future contingency planning should be "gold plated", adding that it should have been "sitting on a computer programme waiting to be sent out as required". Better use of local vets by the Ministry of Agriculture could have speeded up decisions on which animals presented a real risk of developing the disease. Instead there was the "terrible computer carnage" which was instigated by MAFF - in which livestock on farms contiguous to infected premises were culled. "It is incredible that farmers were bullied into having perfectly healthy animals slaughtered on the basis of pseudo-science. "All decisions must be accountable scientifically - after all this is not a new disease," said Mrs Vere. She said one farmer told her: "I did not feel in control of my destiny." Mrs Vere put before the inquiry some notes on the crisis, one of which related to MAFF asking if they could borrow her fibreglass horse for vaccination teams to practise on. She said when she pointed out that not only could they not inject it, it was a horse, she was told by MAFF it did not matter because they needed a life-sized model so personnel could "get used to moving round an animal".
Oct 12

Devon virus inquiry enters final day
Farmers Weekly

THE final day of the Devon foot-and-mouth inquiry is set to hear how red tape hampered animal welfare work during the crisis. John Tressider, RSPCA south-west superintendent, was due to give evidence to the inquiry at County Hall, Exeter, on Friday (12 October). There was an initial reluctance by the now-defunct Ministry of Agriculture to involve the RSPCA, according to his written evidence. Mr Tressider said MAFF's reluctance limited the amount of help the animal welfare charity was able to offer in the early stages of the crisis. Roger Rivett, head of Devon's Trading Standards service, is likely to criticise MAFF's unwillingness to share essential information. At the height of the crisis, one-third of RSPCA staff in Devon were working full-time in an effort to deal with welfare problems. More than 750 farmers were helped with licence applications and feed and bedding in an operation which helped more than 103,000 animals. The fifth day of proceedings at the inquiry will also hear evidence from representatives from environment and wildlife organisations. Nick Atkinson, chief executive of Dartmoor National Park, believes footpaths should never again be closed en masse because of the disease. Mark Robins and Frances Winder of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds are expected to call for an urgent re-evaluation of the local economy. They are set to voice concern about the loss and decline in quality of Devon's biodiversity and call for an ambitious recovery programme.
Oct 12

Doubt cast on BSE-CJD link
BBC

The link between "mad cow disease" and vCJD - commonly thought to be its human equivalent - has been disputed by an expert. Dr George Venters, a consultant in Public Health Medicine in Lanarkshire, Scotland, claims evidence linking the two conditions is weak. The variant form of CJD may simply be a rare type which existed long before the BSE epidemic in cows - but was simply not diagnosed and catalogued properly until the 1990s. If his theory is correct it would mean victims of the condition did not get it by eating infected meat. I believe the evidence now available casts serious doubts on the case for a causal link But other CJD experts say the evidence is strong enough to firmly suggest humans contract vCJD by eating meat from cattle with BSE containing infectious "prion" proteins. (warmwell link: of course they do. Their reputation - and other things - depends on the public believing it to be more than mere theory.) Dr Venters bases his opinion on the fact that the rate of growth in the number of confirmed cases is much less than might be expected from a food-borne source. He suggests the rate of growth in the number of vCJD cases is more consistent with a previously misdiagnosed but extremely rare disease being found. Advances in the detection and reporting of suspected cases through the CJD Surveillance Unit in Edinburgh could account for an apparent rise in the number of cases, none of which would have been officially recorded previously. He wants a public debate on the evidence supporting a link between the two diseases..... (See also Today programme (Listen)
See the warmwell article on Dr Venters' call for a public debate here)
Oct 12

Farmers call for easing of animal movement curb
Telegraph

...autumn restrictions on moving animals because of foot and mouth fears were causing a crisis in the industry. They said more must be done, without risking the virus's spread, to allow animals to be moved to avoid cruelty and bankruptcies. Les Armstrong, head of the National Farmers' Union livestock committee, said sheep farmers unable to take their rams to their ewes would not have lambs next spring and faced losing next year's income too. But farmers were under such pressure that they were on the verge of carrying out illegal movements. Tenant farmers said the day of reckoning was now, with banks pulling the money in. No new cases were reported yesterday.
Oct 12

Scots frustration over meat export ban
The Times

ROSS FINNIE, Scotland's Rural Development Minister, yesterday expressed his exasperation with the European Commission over the lack of progress in resuming meat exports to Europe. Although the Commission has agreed partially to lift a ban on the export of pig meat from the UK, the ban on export of sheep meat from Scotland remains because of the foot-and-mouth outbreak earlier this year. Today Mr Finnie will meet Commission officials in an attempt to impress on them the importance of resuming exports for Scottish farmers. Regions that have not had a case of the disease, and which do not neighbour high risk areas will be able to export pork and bacon from October 22 after a decision earlier this week by the European Union Standing Veterinary Committee. Mr Finnie said he would be impressing on the Commission the need for urgent action to help Scotland's meat export industry. He added: "Scotland has been disease free since May 31. It was the Standing Veterinary Committee that regrettably rejected the case for sheep meat and I share the farmers' despair and sense of anger that they came to that decision. We must get a timeframe for getting the ban on sheep meat lifted." Jim Walker, president of the National Farmers Union of Scotland, claimed yesterday that devolution had failed the country's farmers. They had fulfilled all the EU prerequisites for lifting the export ban but had not been given any acknowledgement that the country had a separate case. "The devolved settlement as far as exports are concerned has completely failed this country," he said.
Oct 12

Cattle 'were infected by Defra blunder'
The Times

OFFICIALS from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) helped to spread foot-and-mouth to five uninfected farms when they bungled the slaughter of cattle, an inquiry into the epidemic was told yesterday. Villagers from Knowstone, near South Molton, Devon, were threatened with action by riot police, who were sent into the area to control anger caused when the 24 infected cattle escaped while being rounded up for a cull. The operation got off to a bad start when the slaughter team ignored advice not to use a narrow lane, in which the lorry became stuck, the independent inquiry set up by Devon County Council was told. Remains of the infected animals were spilt across the road as the lorry, stuck in the lane for two days, was freed by tipping out the carcasses. William Norman, chairman of Knowstone Parish Council, said that the problems started when the team tried to put the cattle into a sheep pen. The inquiry will hear its last day of evidence today. Defra is to answer written questions.
Oct 12

Inquiry to hear how RSPCA was hampered by red tape
Ananova

The charity's South West superintendent, John Tressider, is giving evidence at a Devon County Council co-ordinated hearing in Exeter. He says that there was an initial reluctance by the Ministry of Agriculture to involve the RSPCA. According to Mr Tressider, that limited the amount of help the Society was able to offer in the early stages of the crisis. In a report submitted to the inquiry serious welfare problems caused by delays in issuing movement licences, inadequate supervision of slaughter, and delays in issuing guidelines to slaughter teams, were outlined. At the height of the crisis, a third of the RSPCA staff in Devon worked full time dealing with welfare problems. More than 750 farmers in the county were helped with licence applications, as well as supplies of feed and bedding - an operation which had so far helped more than 103,000 animals.
Oct 12

Desperate farmers set to move animals
The Times

FARMERS are so desperate for cash that they are ready to break the law and move animals in areas infected by foot-and-mouth, risking new outbreaks, the Government's Chief Scientific Adviser was told yesterday. The warning was given at the National Farmers' Union's quarterly council to David King, who is under pressure to relax the strict movement controls in high-risk counties to relieve welfare problems and allow normal trading. The farmers' desperation emerged as farm income figures showed that even lowland farmers were working for less than a quarter of the minimum wage. The annual report from the accountants Deloitte & Touche shows that the average 500-acre family farm made £2,500 last year, compared with £80,000 five years ago. With most farmers working 70-hour weeks, the average hourly rate is about 70p. The minimum wage for over-21s is £4.10. Hill farmers, in a worse position, have told the NFU that they are running up losses of £15,000 a year. Ben Gill, president of the NFU, said that farmers expected to maintain disinfecting procedures, but he emphasised that they needed to earn money. Farmers attending the quarterly council were optimistic that the disease was on the wane as there have been no new cases for ten days. But Professor King said that he would not consider the epidemic over until three months had passed without a new case. He added: "If there are illegal movements we will be back to square one." He was left in no doubt that further animal movements were necessary to prevent the starvation of hundreds of sheep and cattle trapped in upland areas. Peter Allen, a Cumbrian hill farmer, said that his friends and colleagues were at breaking point: "If we don't allow some movements on farms that are bursting to the seams, you'll soon see sheep with dark glasses and baseball caps sitting in the front seats of cars. ......"
People are in a desperate situation and we need to do something. We also have other farmers who had foot-and-mouth in the beginning and have had their compensation, but they are living on it. We must allow them to restock to survive. Mr Allen said that many farmers had ewes and rams that were usually sold for breeding, not for food, and that disease controls were interfering with the breeding season. There were also serious welfare concerns. Mr Allen said that animals would have to be moved within two weeks or they would perish. .............
Oct 12

Family farm profits 'are down to £50 a week'
Telegraph

......Mr Hill said: "The sad thing is that a professional tenant farmer will go bust before a less efficient owner-occupier." Mr Hill said that a farmer today had three options: "Grow, get together or get out". Mr Hill believed the future did not lie in further cost-cutting, but in combining with other farmers to cut costs, a "pride hurdle" the notoriously independent British farmer had so far faced with great reluctance. If machinery and other costs could be shared between farmers, perhaps in co-operatives, East Anglia and the shire counties could produce wheat as competitively as anywhere in the world without subsidies, he said. Mr Hill said there were opportunities to recapture value from the supermarkets by selling locally and avoiding "food miles". For example, he said it was "absolute nonsense" to send animals to the other end of the country for slaughter. Britain had 350 abattoirs and rendering plants while Austria, which is bound by the same regulations, had 7,000. Despite the bleakest results since the agricultural recession began, the survey of the company's clients found some cause for cautious optimism - because farmers had made a determined attempt to cut costs, by shedding labour and doing the work themselves. Mr Hill said: "Having tracked the downturn for six years, we believe that farming is at the bottom of the cycle. There is scope for some optimism and we predict that net farm income will marginally improve in the next 12 months.".....
Oct 12

Curate tells of foot-and-mouth fear
Farmers Weekly

A LOCAL curate giving evidence to the Devon foot-and-mouth inquiry has painted a disturbing picture of a community at the heart of crisis. "The pain and fear in our community was palpable. You could feel it coming over the phone," said Rev Paul Fitzpatrick, from Okehampton. Night-time searches had to be organised to find farmers, he told the inquiry at County Hall, Exeter, on Wednesday (10 October). "I would get distressed phone calls at night from people whose husbands had gone out and they didn't know where they were. "We actually had to organise searches for farmers because their partners were so worried about them. "It wasn't that they were going to commit suicide, but they needed time to think. It was surprising how many times that happened." Rev Fitzpatrick said his entire ministry during the crisis was conducted over the phone because restrictions prevented him from visiting farms. The foot-and-mouth crisis had taught him the importance of maintaining strong local networks between rural people, he said. "Strangers don't work in the countryside. There is a need for faces to be known and trusted. "The majority of people who phoned me did not attend church regularly, but called me because I was a known face." But Rev Fitzpatrick said there was now an even greater need for befriending people and developing professional psychiatric services in rural areas. "There is a lot of isolation and psychiatric ill-health that exists in the countryside and that is compounded by loneliness and financial worries. "It is almost like having mud shovelled on your head, and sooner or later you are going to go down." A report from the inquiry will be submitted to the government's Policy Commission on the Future of Farming later this year.
Oct 11

Farm vaccine report launched
BBC

UK scientists are to consider whether vaccination should be used to curb future foot-and-mouth outbreaks. The Royal Society, the association that includes many of Britain's most eminent scientists, will consider the benefit of vaccination in its wide-ranging inquiry into how effectively the foot-and-mouth crisis was handled. The controversy over vaccination continued from the first case of foot-and-mouth in February. Early scientific consensus is that of the four million animals killed, up to a million could have been saved had advice on mass culling been implemented more effectively. (warmwell note: ! four million? Do they still really imagine it was only four milion? and do they still really believe that no more than a quarter were wrongly killed?) The society says it will study whether the current system for the diagnosis and reporting of infectious animal diseases is sufficient. And it will consider how, when and whether vaccination should be used in future. The inquiry team will take evidence from farmers and leading experts. They will begin by visiting affected farms in November. The research by the Royal Society coincides with a public inquiry into the foot-and-mouth outbreak in Devon.
Tourism leaders have called for an end to mass culling. South West Tourism chief executive, Malcolm Bell, told the inquiry in Exeter earlier this week that vaccination should be considered as a future option. ...... On Wednesday, the inquiry in Exeter will hear from the police, health service and community groups. Last month, scientists said that Britain should initiate an international debate on the use of vaccination to prevent another "inevitable" foot-and-mouth epidemic. The disease could be eradicated globally if all countries adopted a vaccination policy, said Professor Fred Brown, who helped tackle the UK's last serious outbreak of the disease in 1967.
Oct 11

EC agrees £215m foot-and-mouth compensationAnanova

Budgets have been juggled in Brussels to speed through the first slice of what is expected to be a total EU payment of about £600 million. The cash will help cover the cost of the mass animal slaughter ordered by the Government. Officials say the initial payment has been made possible by trimming EU agriculture spending levels in some areas this year. The rest will be drawn from next year's EU budget, and the entire amount from Brussels represents abut 60% of the costs of compensating farmers for the slaughter programme. The commission has an obligation to provide financial support to any of the 15 member states which may face agricultural epidemics on the scale confronted by the UK earlier this year. An EC spokesman said: "The vets have been looking at the bills, and by some redeployments in the agriculture budget and lower spending in some areas, we are now able to offer this advance payment. "The rest will be found from the 2002 budget." About £25 million is to be given to Netherlands, Ireland and France which all suffered relatively minor outbreaks of the disease.
Oct 11

European vets allow exports of UK pork
Independent

Farmers and food exporters welcomed a ruling by European Union veterinary experts on Wednesday night to lift the eight-month ban on the export of pork meat from Britain. The decision will bring relief to the agriculture industry which has been suffering from restrictions imposed on Britain's #600m export market since the first outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease was confirmed in Essex in February. Counties which have not had a case of the disease and which do not adjoin high-risk areas will be able to export pork and bacon from 22 October, provided there are no new outbreaks. The decision was made by the European Union's Standing Veterinary Committee but does not affect beef, lamb and dairy products, which are still subject to an export ban. The National Farmers' Union and the National Pig Association said the news offered "desperately welcome" access to overseas markets. .......
Oct 11

Foot and Mouth inquiry - day three
BBC Devon

Devon's chief constable has accused the Government of using a foot-and-mouth contingency plan more than 30 years out of date. Speaking at the county's public inquiry into the epidemic, Sir John Evans said "the policeman in him wanted to take control of the crisis". In Britain's last major foot-and-mouth outbreak in 1967, the police played a major part not only guarding farms but also taking charge of the overall operation to bring the disease under control. This time, their role was more minor, still guarding farms but leaving the strategic command to the Government's farming department. Among the many victims of foot-and-mouth were children in rural areas whose home and school lives were disrupted. One head teacher spoke of his school's "total isolation" at the height of the epidemic. The criticism came on the third day of the council's public inquiry, being held at County Hall in Exeter.....
Oct 10

Euro-MPs back tractor hours limit
Farmers weekly

PLANS to limit the amount of time farm workers can spend on their tractors to just two or three hours a day have moved a step closer. MEPs at an Employment and Social Affairs committee meeting in Brussels voted in favour of the measure on Tuesday (9 October). The legislation is intended to limit the exposure of workers to vibrations from machinery to protect them from the risk of ill health. But it has drawn widespread condemnation from industry leaders. "These proposals are totally impractical," said Michael Paske, vice-president of the National Farmers' Union of England and Wales.
Oct 10

Devon Inquiry Day 2
BBC Devon

...heard strong criticism of failings in the Government's welfare cull. It heard how some farmers were driven almost to the point of suicide. John Varley, of Clinton Estates, told of how one farmer was left with pregnant ewes and sheep in appalling conditions as they could not be moved under the restrictions. The farmer had to shoot the animals with a 12-bore shotgun from close range. The inquiry is also hearing today of the effect the crisis had on the tourist industry. Among those taking part today are the National Trust, South West Tourism, and Devon County Council. The opening day yesterday heard scathing criticism from farmers and NFU representatives over the way the Government handled the crisis in Devon. During the outbreak, there were 173 confirmed cases of the virus in the county, and 400,000 animals were culled. The inquiry, which will last all week, has received around 400 submissions. Yesterday, the chairman of Devon NFU, David Hill, slammed the way that the ministry handled the crisis. Chairman of Devon NFU, David Hill, speaking at the inquiry He criticised the delayed ban on animal movements, which, he said, helped to spread the virus. And he attacked the policy of the contiguous cull as "the most extraordinary part of the exercise," which led to the unnecessary killing of animals and distress among farming families. He also said the the command and control from the Government was "abysmal." He added:"It was very difficult to obtain information from Maff, especially in the early days of the outbreak and this was a totally unsatisfactory situation." The first day also heard personal accounts from farmers, who were reduced to tears after losing a lifetime's work. The inquiry board comprises the chairman, Prof Ian Mercer, one officer, and seven councillors. The ministry, Defra (formerly Maff), has agreed to submit a written submission and will respond in writing to questions which arise during the hearing.
As well as the webcam during the day, there is a link to listen to a review of the day's proceedings
Oct 10

Pony Cull
The Times

About 500 Dartmoor ponies may have to be rounded up and shot because they are in danger of starving to death during the winter, the RSPCA said yesterday. Foot-and-mouth restrictions have closed several of the traditional pony markets, which means that the Dartmoor commoners, who keep the ponies, have no way of selling their surplus animals. The Dartmoor Commoners' Council said that a cull would be the only option for about 500 ponies, mainly colts. There are about 3,000 ponies on the moor. Maureen Rolls, of the charity South West Equine Protection, said: A cull is morally wrong and I don't think it will resolve any of the problems.
Oct 10

Farming not in terminal decline: CLA
Farmers Weekly

....delegates at the Conservative Party Conference in Blackpool were set to be told on Tuesday (9 October). Landowners due to attend a conference fringe meeting said they would urge the Tories to press the government to kick-start a rural recovery. Edward Greenwell, deputy president of the Country Land and Business Association, said the rural economy offered many opportunities. "Agriculture is not in terminal decline," he said. "There are many reasons why all our interests are served by maintaining a viable, sustainable, commercial farming industry." Foot-and-mouth disease had starkly illustrated the interdependence of farming and tourism, said Mr Greenwell. "Without a managed, attractive countryside, provided through farming, tourists would not be visiting the countryside in such numbers. "Landowners and farmers act as guardians of the precious national asset, upon which the tourist industry can thrive." CLA president Anthony Bosanquet has called for a further shift in support away from food subsidies towards environmental and other rural schemes. .....
Oct 9

Foot and mouth inquiry told of 'needless killing'
Guardian

Hundreds of thousands of animals were slaughtered unnecessarily during the foot and mouth crisis as the government rapidly lost control of the epidemic with the former ministry of agriculture playing "catch up" from day one, an inquiry heard yesterday. At the first public hearing into a crisis which will cost taxpayers at least £5bn, the National Farmers' Union spoke of a "disaster from start to finish" with abysmal command and control in Whitehall. .......
Oct 9

Three out of 10 farmers 'ready to leave industry'
Telegraph

David Hill, the chairman of the National Farmers' Union Devon branch, gave a warning of the exodus after highlighting Government errors that he said had exacerbated the crisis. He attacked the "disastrous" contiguous cull policy dreamt up by "mathematicians and statisticians", and the Government's failure to stop animal movements immediately after the first case was discovered. He also criticised the Government's initial reluctance to bring in the Army to organise the slaughter of livestock, and the disposal of carcasses, and he highlighted the poor communication from the Ministry of Agriculture. .....He told the five-day inquiry: "Maff was playing catch-up from day one. We believe there was a total panic." The inquiry, chaired by Prof Ian Mercer and set up by Devon county council, is separate from the Government's three investigations. Mr Hill told the inquiry that the Government's delay between announcing the first case and stopping all animal movements meant hundreds of thousands of sheep were moved, spreading the disease across the country. The NFU also recommended that the contiguous cull should be abandoned. Mr Hill said: "The people who dreamt up the contiguous cull were mathematicians and statisticians who produced a computer model. It led to the unnecessary killing of a huge number of animals and caused extreme personal distress."
Oct 9

Pig farmer appears in court
Telegraph

Robert Waugh, 56, who operated from Burnside Farm, Heddon-on-the-Wall, Northumberland, pleaded not guilty at Tynedale magistrates' court to charges brought by the county's trading standards department. Waugh originally faced 16 charges and a further six charges were brought by Northumberland County Council Trading Standards in August. Waugh appeared alongside Leslie Kenneth Scurr, a self-employed haulier, of Ripon, North Yorks, who faces 16 charges. Five of them are unrelated to Burnside Farm and will be heard by Richmond magistrates later in the year. A pre-trial review date has been set for Nov 19 when a district judge will decide whether Waugh and Scurr will jointly face charges relating to alleged offences at Burnside Farm. Waugh, of St Luke's Road, Sunderland, was originally jointly charged with his brother, Ronnie, 60. Ronnie Waugh's charges were yesterday separated from those faced by his brother, all of which have been adjourned indefinitely due to his ill health.
this story is given a link to an earlier one from August 12 by Christopher Booker and Richard North
Oct 9

Anthrax quarantines Boca Raton office
Miami Herald

Investigators are examining whether anthrax found in two workers at a Boca Raton publishing company may have been ``biologically engineered,'' which would make it unlikely that the men -- one of whom died last week -- were exposed to the bacteria by accident. Teams of specially trained FBI agents from all over the country descended Monday on the offices of supermarket tabloid publisher American Media Inc. to look for clues why a photo editor died from anthrax Friday and a mailroom employee tested positive for spores in his nasal passage on Sunday. The mailroom employee, Ernesto Blanco, 73, has not contracted the disease but discovery of anthrax in his nasal passages heightened U.S. concern over a possible bioterrorism threat and turned what had been a medical mystery into a criminal investigation led by the FBI. Blanco delivered mail throughout AMI, which publishes The Sun, The National Enquirer and The Globe, among other publications -- including on the second floor where deceased photo editor Bob Stevens worked and where investigators found traces of anthrax on a computer keyboard. ............ (warmwell note; See also Elaborations on Anthrax A Biologist's Perspective " A flood of stories hitting the media means the government underworld is behind them. ")
Oct 9

RSPCA calls for farming licences
Farmers Weekly

Mr Bowles said it was crazy that riding schools had to be licensed but farming - one of the biggest industries - was not. "We are not saying that farmers do not know what they are doing. "Of course, most farmers are very good. Therefore they will have nothing to fear from a licensing system where they have to apply certain standards." Mr Bowles said licensing had twice been a recommendation of the Farm Animal Welfare Council, the government's advisors on animal welfare. Foot-and-mouth had shown that there was a "black hole" in terms of knowing the location and movement of farm animals, said Mr Bowles. "If we have farm licensing then hopefully that would plug that hole." But Baroness Byford, the Conservative agriculture spokeswoman in the House of Lords, said she would be cautious before supporting the idea. "I'd actually have reservations on it because I think there are practical difficulties with it," she told FARMERS WEEKLY. Baroness Byford said issues such as costs and policing would have to be addressed before any licensing system could be endorsed. "I think there are many questions that need to be clarified by the RSPCA before you could actually say "Yes" it's a good idea." (warmwell note: we too would be happier to support the RSPCA if we felt they had made any loud protest at the blatant disregard for animal welfare shown by the government and Defra over the past seven months. But, like the vast majority of vets, they have been very, very quiet.)

Freedom bid cow destroyed
The Journal

A Northumberland farmer whose pedigree Aberdeen Angus heifer gave Defra slaughtermen the slip five weeks ago was devastated to learn it was still to be killed despite its five weeks of freedom. A neighbouring farmer who took the animal into his farm after it turned up on Friday now faces losing his cattle and sheep if the heifer is found to be infected with foot-and-mouth. The heifer, which was killed yesterday, disappeared into woodland as the rest of John Rutherford's 40-strong herd was culled on August 30. After weeks of sightings, the heifer was found in a country lane between Allendale and Whitfield in Northumberland on Friday. Mr Rutherford who owns Old Town Farm near Whitfield, called Defra officials after being told it had been let into a field of cows unaffected by foot-and-mouth. Mr Rutherford, who lives with wife Margaret and son Christopher, said: "We kept hearing rumours of a heifer being heard in the woods late at night. "We were told on Friday an Aberdeen Angus had been found wandering on a road and called Defra. They said it had been so long since the infection we could bring her home but we were later told the vets had said the animal had to be slaughtered. "I wish I had never even heard it was still alive."..."The day they came to kill the heifers was terrible," Mr Rutherford said. "We heard they were chasing the animals all over the place and on to the road before shooting them with rifles.."
....A Defra spokesman said yesterday:" Defra understands the farmer's situation but once an animal has been listed for slaughter for dangerous contact then it remains listed." (warmwell note: this is such a totally nasty little story of Defra's stupid and ignorant zealousness that we feel closer than ever to despair. The cow was not infected. Cows are sentinel animals who show symptoms quickly. Seven months of foot and mouth appear to have taught Defra nothing except callousness and a continuing hatred for common sense)
Oct 8

Devon Inquiry latest:
BBC online Devon

..a large proportion of the submissons are from individuals - from farmers, traders, and from people whose domestic lives have been grossly affected." Chairman of Devon NFU, David Hill, speaking at the inquiry The first to give his testimony at County Hall was the chairman of the National Farmers' Union in Devon, David Hill. His strongest criticism was for the appointment of Ben Bennett, the vet put in charge at the outset of the Devon outbreak. Mr Hill told the inquiry:"He was being asked to be the information officer, he was being asked to be a manager at a level he'd never been trained to do, but to leave him there for the first three weeks on his own, a vet, fronting up the entire operation, is one of the absurdities of the way this was handled in Devon." Defra has agreed to submit a written submission and will respond in writing to questions which arise during the hearing. The results of the inquiry will be forwarded to the Government, which is holding three different inquiries into the crisis - but not one of them are public inquiries.
Oct 8

County to find truth about foot and mouth
Telegraph

While the outbreak, which first struck nine months ago, no longer makes daily headlines, and the disinfectant pads and warning signs have been cautiously removed in some areas, the effects of months of misery are still evident in Devon. The county was the second worst hit by the epidemic. There was silence in the empty fields and cattle sheds around the village of Chulmleigh yesterday. Philip Bown, a farmer, said: "We must find a way of ensuring that this country is never again put through a trauma like this." He is one of 350 people who have made submissions for the inquiry that opens in Exeter. Gazing at a large ash tree in his paddock, a favourite congregating place for his cattle before they were slaughtered in May, he hoped that the inquiry would "establish the truth"
......The couple have decided to retire early, and will not be re-stocking.
Mrs Brown said: "Lessons have to be learned. So many stupid decisions have been made. They didn't jump on it at the beginning." The Bowns hope the inquiry will address the key issue of vaccination. They believe it should be used rather than slaughter. They also believe that the Environment Agency should have allowed immediate disposal of carcasses, either by farm burial or rendering. Mr Bown said: "Because they weren't burying the animals immediately they allowed the infection to spread. They were slaughtering them faster than they could cope with.
...........In some cases, it was nearly three weeks before dead animals were moved. When there was a wind they found bits of carcass two miles from the pyres."
Mrs Bown also criticised the "over-eagerness" of slaughtermen, who were paid on a per head basis, and the inefficiency of the cleaning contractors. Devon county council has decided to hold the inquiry, which is expected to last five days, in public. It will be chaired by Prof Ian Mercer, 68, who has lived in Devon since 1959, and was secretary general of the Association of National Park Authorities until his retirement earlier this year. Prof Mercer promised to examine whether vaccination might have contained the disease more quickly than slaughter. He will make recommendations to the Government's three investigations into the crisis. The inquiry will be shown live on the internet and the hearings can be accessed via the council's website.
Oct 8

Euro MP in bid for foot-mouth inquiry
Western Daily Press

A FULL-scale EU-based inquiry into Britain's foot-and-mouth outbreak is a step nearer becoming reality after an intervention by West MEP Neil Parish. He has invoked a little-used procedure to table a petition signed by 200 cross-party Euro-MPs from across the Community calling for a committee to be set up to investigate the epidemic. This will then be a trigger for the Commission and the Council of Ministers to take the proposal for a full investigation seriously. And a defiant Mr Parish, a Conservative MEP and a Somerset farmer, says his action was fully justified, given the intransigence of the UK government. "Labour has ignored the pleas of everyone who is calling for a full independent public inquiry. Therefore, we had no alternative but to force the EU to investigate the matter," he said. "We have to learn everything we possibly can to ensure that something like this never happens again, and sweeping the issue under the carpet is not acceptable."......
Mr Parish said the inquiry should also review current foot-and-mouth control policies which have led to the slaughter of four million British animals. "It is essential to have a mature debate of the merits and practicalities of a vaccination versus slaughter policy. "We have to find ways of alleviating the suffering of the animals and of the farmers and their families affected by foot-and-mouth," he said.
Oct 8

Public Inquiry into Devon foot and mouth starts
Ananova

....The five day hearing, which is to be broadcast live via the internet, is being organised by Devon County Council. There were 173 cases of the disease confirmed in Devon during the outbreak and since the inquiry was announced on August 22, about 400 detailed submissions have been sent to its co-ordinating unit. Chairman Professor Ian Mercer, 68, a leading authority on rural conservation and environmental issues, said a report would be sent to the Government by the end of October. "We can provide them, sitting up there in whatever sterilised atmosphere they are in, with some reality - with the facts of what happened on the ground as the people in the countryside saw it," he said. "We need to let the people of Devon get it off their chests." There was bound to be "considerable opinion" about how things were handled at the outset. "There is going to be, I imagine, considerable discussion about communications, how good or bad it was, and how it broke down within organisations and between organisations," he said. The "constructive stuff" of the inquiry would be about the future and "what you do better next time". The first evidence to be heard will be from the National Farmers' Union. Oct 8

Foot-and-mouth inquiry chief rules out a witch-hunt
The Times

.....We all agree that Devon's most significant asset is the countryside and one of the things foot-and-mouth has shown us is the interconnection of everything out there.We will be flooded with opinions about how the outbreak was handled and what was done and not done and what might have been done differently and how it might have been done better. However, this is not a witch-hunt. We are not looking to apportion blame. I hope we will be factual and rigorous and produce for everybody who will listen a distilled-down and readable account of what is put to us. The five-day inquiry will be the first of its kind broadcast in its entirety on the Internet on Devon County Council's website, www.devon.gov.uk
Oct 8

Foot-and-mouth cost Times letter

FROM MR DOUG MACLEOD Sir, The cost to the rural economy of the UK of the foot-and-mouth outbreak - or rather the cost of the chosen solution to the outbreak - is reckoned by the Countryside Agency to be about £5 billion to date (report, September 8).
In terms of economic damage, the introduction of one infected sheep into the UK is likely to be more efficient for terrorists than flying aircraft into skyscrapers. The perpetrators also preserve their own lives and may repeat the mischief elsewhere.
The concept of a disease-free area relies on all the human population wanting to defend it. One person with the opposite intent may defeat the strategy.
Isn't it time we (and all of the rest of Europe) vaccinated our farm animals?
Oct 7

Farmers angry at ministry foot-dragging
Japan Times

(warmwell note: this article from Japan illustrates the sudden and far-reaching effects on prices of a sudden scare, in this case, confirmation in Japan by a "british government agency" that a five year old Holstein cow had BSE)....News of the case triggered public concerns about the safety of beef and cow byproducts, dealing a serious blow to cattle raisers, the meat industry and eateries. ........ "If the serious slump in beef consumption continues for months, all cattle raisers in Chiba will be forced out of business," Ogura lamented. .... Ogura's farm raises hybrid Holstein/Japanese black cows. Called "table meat" in the industry, they usually fetch around 1,000 yen per kg. However, after the news of the mad cow case, they sold for around 400 yen per kg.......Despite assurances by authorities that meat reaching tables is safe and a recent beef-eating display staged by Diet members for the media, the public remains wary. According to Consumers Cooperative Tokyo, beef sales were down by 40 percent at its 82 stores during the week of Sept. 17, compared with the same week a year ago. ......Critics say the farm ministry's sloppy handling of the matter ignited deep distrust in consumers, who have already had their fill of corruption and coverup scandals involving government bureaucrats in recent years. When the mad cow case was announced Sept. 10, the farm ministry stepped in and said the infected cow had been incinerated. Four days later, the ministry retracted its statement. The bones of the cow had in fact been processed and mixed into meat-and-bone meal (MBM) before being shipped to warehouses.

"Since then, the public does not trust anything the government says....."It is wrong to think consumers are merely panicking. It is their last resort as self-defense in response to the unreliable actions of authorities."

Compounding the problem is authorities' inability to pinpoint the route of infection. While it is believed the infected cow contacted the disease through MBM containing contaminated animal carcasses, the search has turned up nothing.....

.. ..........MBM, rich in protein and mineral, sped up cows' growth and boosted milk production. In recent years, some 400,000 tons of MBM were being produced annually, making up an average of 1.8 percent of the ingredients of mixed feed given to chicken and pigs. The total ban on MBM means increased costs for pig and chicken feeds..... the cost of chicken feed will rise by around 500 yen per ton, which will likely translate into higher meat and poultry prices overall.
Industry people emphasize that MBM, which seems to have become public enemy No. 1 in the ongoing mad cow scare, has in fact played a significant role in Japan's farming industry, providing an efficient means of recycling.
If the use of MBM is halted, the 4,400 tons of livestock scrap produced every day at meat processing plants nationwide will be nothing more than garbage. ......... Shokin Ishihara, who runs Taiseien, a Korean barbecue restaurant in Tokyo's Minato Ward, said he was shocked to see video footage of staggering cows in other countries that has been repeatedly shown in news programs.
"I wouldn't say it's a lie, but is it necessary to show it that often?" said Ishihara, whose restaurant saw sales fall by more than 60 percent since late September. "Nobody wants to eat beef when they are shown that again and again. It is very heartrending if people have to give it up.".......... "Korean barbecue was perfected here by Japanese-Koreans," Ishihara reckoned. "And Japanese beef is the best in the world." (warmwell note: all this as a result of a "british government agency" saying that the cow's remains tested positive. In all the misery and suspicion of Japanese bureaucrats, this fact appears to have been accepted without question.)
Oct 7

Christopher Booker's Notebook:
Interviewer Snow lets "experts" off the hook
Sunday Telegraph

CHANNEL 4 News was used last week to publicise a curious disinformation campaign by the duo who have been running Mr Blair's foot and mouth policy since March. Professor David King, the Government chief scientist, and Professor Roy Anderson, whose Imperial College computer directed the "contiguous cull", which was responsible for the slaughter of three million healthy animals, now predict that the epidemic will last until next spring. The news presenter, Jon Snow, did not remind them how last April the same computer predicted that outbreaks would fall to zero on June 7, conveniently coinciding with Mr Blair's election date.
The scientists also claimed that, had their cull policy been more effectively enforced, "one million animals and 400 farms" could have been saved, working out at an improbable 2,500 animals per farm. Mr Snow failed to query any of these claims, including the most illogical that, if there was ever another epidemic, vaccination would be at "the top of the agenda", but that, if it had been used this time, it would only have made the epidemic last longer. This claim produces gasps of disbelief from genuine experts of world renown such as Professor Fred Brown and Dr Simon Barteling, who have been saying since March that vaccination was the only effective way to bring Britain's epidemic swiftly to an end.
It is one thing for our Government to hand over direction of the crisis to scientists who have no real expertise in animal diseases, but when their policies predictably fail, and they try to pre-empt criticism with such fanciful claims, it is another for the media to be so uncritical in allowing them to peddle what amounts to no more than propaganda.
Oct 7

Gangs 'doctor' rotten meat for the dinner table
Observer

..... There is evidence the mass slaughter of animals due to the foot and mouth epidemic has led to an increase in unfit meat being passed back into the human food chain. Authorities said rotting and diseased carcasses are bought cheaply and then 'laundered' back into the human food chain. Gangs cut off rotting sections of meat, including cancerous growths and abscesses, and sometimes dye the meat white again by soaking it in a bucket of salt water and a non-toxic dose of bleach. The Observer has learnt that police and health officials have launched investigations in Lancashire, Hampshire, Wales, Norfolk and Derbyshire to unmask the gangs behind the trade. The criminals obtain false documentation that will claim the meat is legitimate. They make deliveries at weekends or at night to avoid health inspectors. The unfit meat can contain bacteria such as campylobacter and salmonella, potentially lethal food poisons. Last month police and environmental health officials raided a Norfolk farm and found nine tons of rotting meat, including two dead foxes. The farm had no hot water, the meat still bore traces of fur, and rat droppings littered the floor. The meat was not fit for pet food, but inspectors believe it was destined for the dinner table. 'I have never seen anything like it in 40 years of food hygiene enforcement,' said Granville Smith, chief environmental health officer for South Norfolk. Public health officials believe the trade in potentially lethal meat will become more widespread following government plans to privatise meat inspection.
Oct 7

Small farmers to be given millions in aid
Sunday Times

(warmwell note: the headline is not borne out by the subsequent article) .....Haskins wants subsidies that promote food production to be scrapped. He favours a system in which farms are ranked on a scale of one to 10 according to how green they are. Large " blue" farms that use more chemicals and pesticides would rate a three or four, while Prince Charles's farms, whose methods are wholly organic, would score a 10. Farmers convicted of polluting the environment would lose their accreditation and subsidy entitlement. British farmers receive more than £3.1 billion a year in EU subsidies. Despite this, they made only£1.9 billion net "profit" last year, pushing their average income below £9,000. (warmwell note: many of the farmers we support would be astonished to read this. They are without any income and owe thousands to their voracious banks) Haskins, the millionaire chairman of Northern Foods, who was appointed rural recovery co-ordinator in July, recently upset the farming lobby when he predicted that the number of farms would be halved by 2020. He said farmers needed to be more enterprising and less dependent on subsidies and should take on work outside farming to boost their income. His latest proposals will cause further alarm to the larger farmers, who receive 80% of EU subsidies. They know his views are taken seriously by the government. Haskins's blueprint for the future of British farming is part of his plan for a shake-up of the EU's common agricultural policy (CAP), which he is working on for the Foreign Policy Centre, a Labour-backed think tank. There is growing support among the EU's 15 member states for fundamental reform of the CAP, but all acknowledge it will take years to achieve. Haskins argues that it should occur before enlargement of the union in 2004. .....Baroness Young, chief executive of the Environment Agency, said Britain needed to halve its 44m-strong sheep flock and enforce strict new environmental standards on agriculture. Speaking at a fringe meeting at the Labour party conference, she said farmers should be made to draw up "whole farm plans" showing how they would meet environmental targets set by the Environment Agency and the EU ( warmwell note: "should be made to" we're hearing a lot of this sort of language lately. Control, control, control - the death knell to Britain's food producers just as FMD has been to so many of the Baroness' unwanted sheep) .....
Peter Riley, a Friends of the Earth food and farming campaigner, said: "Environmentalists have called for a shift in farming subsidy from production to care of the land for many years. If Lord Haskins can deliver this it will be very welcome." But the National Farmers' Union will vehemently oppose a rapid shift in subsidies. " If you take money away quickly from commercial farms they will collapse," said Martin Haworth, the policy director. ...............A second report by the Rural Task Force, headed by Alun Michael, the rural affairs minister, is due out in the next two weeks and is likely to recommend ways in which up to 20% of the money paid through CAP - about £600m - could be legitimately diverted into environmental projects.
Oct 7 ...see also in the USA

Farmers get $240 million in conservation program
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

...Wisconsin farmers will be paid $240 million to reduce soil erosion, improve water quality and restore prairie land in a state-federal program of unprecedented proportions, state Agriculture Secretary Jim Harsdorf announced Friday. The program earmarks $200 million in federal funds and $40 million in state money to enroll up to 100,000 acres in the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Included will be about 25,000 acres put into permanent conservation easements and 75,000 acres into 15-year contracts. That allocation will involve more than one-third of the 285,000 acres Wisconsin farmers have sought to enroll in federal conservation programs, but for which funding has not been available......It came a day after many small farmers and conservation advocates alike mourned a vote in the House of Representatives that restricted future funds for the Conservation Reserve Program by eliminating money for the Wetlands Reserve Program. ......Payments to farmers here would be targeted to areas where state and private conservation agencies have identified a need to improve the quality of streams and rivers, and to restore Wisconsin's once vast tallgrass prairie. ......Wisconsin farmers now have 290,573 acres enrolled in conservation programs Harsdorf said the program would help 99% of the state's farms that are family-owned and operated. ......... John Malchine, a farmer from Wind Lake who chairs the citizens board that sets policy for the agriculture department, said the money would be a tremendous help to a farming community hard-pressed to remain profitable while meeting government regulations.
Oct 7

Tenant farmers leaving fells
Westmorland Gazette

...Mr Maurice believes failure to replace skilled farmers could leave large parts of the region's world-famous landscape, which attracts millions of visitors each year, to grow out of control. The problem is exacerbated by predictions that as many as 15 per cent of foot-and-mouth affected farmers in the county are expected to leave the industry, leaving further tracts of land unmanaged. Mr Maurice raised his concerns for the future of the Lake District with Prince Charles and with European Commissioner for agriculture Franz Fischler during their visits to the area last week. ....
posted Oct 6

Illogical Theory
Telegraph letter

SIR - So the mathematical boffins, who of course have no actual experience of the disease, are saying again that if only Defra (Maff) had culled in 24 hours on infected farms and 48 hours on neighbouring farms, a million animals would have been saved (report, Oct 4). What they don't say is that we who worked on the 1967 epidemic defeated it with inter alia professional expertise and speed and that we mostly slaughtered, buried and completed preliminary disinfection within 24 hours. As for their assertion that vaccination would not have had much impact on the course of the present epidemic, why don't they try telling that to the National Health Sevice, which is embarking on an exercise to get the most susceptible people this winter vaccinated against the flu virus? The foot and mouth disease vaccines held in stock confer good protection against the type of virus at present in this country. From Ken Tyrell MRCVS
Oct 6

Farming is honoured at service
Derbyshire Today

A Harvest festival with a difference will be held tomorrow in honour of Derbyshire farmers who have battled to escape the clutches of foot and mouth disease. The service will be held at Derby Cathedral and has been specially written by the city's dean, the Very Rev Michael Perham. During the service, which starts at 2.30pm, eight candles will be lit by members of the farming community. Prayers will also be offered in memory of the animals slaughtered and the farms affected. The cathedral bell, which tolled daily at the height of the crisis as a sign of support for the farmers, will ring out across the city in their honour once again as the service begins. A shepherd's crook will be officially handed over to the cathedral. It will then be dedicated by the dean as a symbol of the close relationship of the church and farming community. Mr Perham said: "Harvest is always about thanksgiving. After what the farmers have been through this year with foot and mouth and its financial consequences, thanksgiving is quite difficult. Any harvest service needs to take account of feelings of anger, disappointment and sadness. ........Joseph Fletcher (79), of Smalley, is a retired farmer who has been working as part of a special Service Committee to help organise this year's festival....Farming is certainly changing now  it will never be the same again. It is good that this harvest service has changed too. "There is a lot to be thankful for, like the beauty of the countryside. The only worry is, will it be kept beautiful if farmers are forced out of business?" From yesterday, visitors to the cathedral have been able to see the harvest festival decorations that have been created by the Derbyshire Farmers' Thanksgiving Service Committee. The service is open to everyone.
Oct 6

Farmers quizzed over foot-mouth
Worcester Evening News

AN independent probe into the Government's handling of the foot- and-mouth crisis has invited submissions from Worcestershire and Herefordshire farmers. The National Audit Office said it was now ready to begin taking evidence from the farmers - as well as vets and rural businesses. The Parliamentary watchdog will spend the next six weeks gathering information before publishing its findings in the middle of 2002. NAO spokesman Barry Lester said it would report to Parliament on the "economy, efficiency and effectiveness" with which Ministers had used their resources. In particular, it will examine whether the Government was prepared for the crisis and whether cash has been squandered in dealing with it. Mr Lester said people affected by the crisis are being asked to respond to four broad questions. These are:
1 Contingency planning. How well prepared was the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (now part of DEFRA) to deal with a major outbreak of the disease?
2 Handling of the crisis. How effectively were contingency plans put into effect and how well were changes to the plans coped with? How well did the Government departments and other agencies, in particular DEFRA, cope with the outbreak?
3 Cost effectiveness. Was action taken in a cost-effective manner, taking into account the conditions under which the departments and agencies were operating? How were levels of compensation determined? Have there been adequate controls against irregularity?
4 Cost. What has been the cost of the outbreak in terms of both public expenditure and of wider economic or environmental costs?
The NAO investigaton is separate to the three commissioned by the Government in the place of a full, public inquiry. The House of Commons Public accounts Committee is also holding an investigation.
Submissions to the NAO should be e-mailed to fmd@nao.gsi.gov.ul or posted
to: Foot and Mouth Study, Room C122, National Audit Offce, 157-197
Buckngham Palace Road, Victoria, London SW1W 9SP by November 13.
Oct 6

Mrs Beckett, we're farmers, so why are you blocking our sideline to kee