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THE NATIONAL FOOT & MOUTH GROUP

PRESS RELEASE: 1 November 2001

NEW LEGISLATION PRE-EMPTS ALL FMD INQUIRIES

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.)

In the Brecon Beacons over 17,000 animals were culled, but subsequent testing showed only a handful of positives where antibodies were present, showing the disease had not spread throughout the flocks and to other sheep.

In the intended cull of animals as dangerous contacts from Welshpool Market, where local farmers refused to let their animals be killed, not one later proved positive.

If the Government is to proceed now with further draconian powers to direct the slaughter of many healthy animals it should back up its call with hard evidence that appeals did actually adversely affect control of the disease. Without such evidence there can be no justification or need.

What is certain is that culling teams were far more likely to spread the disease either by releasing much infected material during culling, or in the transportation of slaughtered animals, or via vehicles or operatives. The bio-security of culling teams has been exposed as negligent and irresponsible - and a far more likely cause of the disease spreading, particularly along culling routes.

The Group has subsequently discovered that of the 2030 'confirmed cases' many of these were not tested either for antibodies or live virus. An even smaller percentage of the contiguous culls, 3km culls or slaughter on suspicion cases were actually subject to laboratory testing. Therefore it is not known by government scientists, or anybody else, exactly how many actual cases of FMD there have been.

Given the unreliability of clinicial diagnosis, particularly in sheep, clinical diagnosis alone cannot be accepted. Dr Paul Kitching, former head of the Animal Health Institute at Pirbright, has repeatedly said that clinincal diagnosis in sheep is totally unacceptable. For 'government scientists' to form their view on the basis of such incomplete data and information is therefore untenable and unsupportable.

It is not the powers to slaughter that need to be improved - but the ability to accurately diagnose disease which needs improving; with modern, up to date techniques - such as PCR (polymerase chairn reaction tests) and an ability to provide sufficient facilities for testing.

To push through this legislation now makes a total mockery of the 3 inquiries into FMD. The remit of the Royal Society Inquiry, in particular, which is dealing with the accuracy, speed and facilities for diagnosis, would have heard major evidence on the whole issue of diagnosis in the current outbreak and it is its findings which should direct future legislation.

This ill conceived, unjustified and unwarranted legislation only serves to demonstrate that the 3 Inquiries are meaningless and a waste of people's time and effort. It is clear the Government does not intend to attach any weight to their deliberations or outcomes.

Contacts:

Janet Bayley: 01285 644319 / 01285 656812

Peter Woods Vets for Vaccination: 01452 523534 / 01452 520056

Roy Miller: 01743 884353 (Welshpool Market Cull)

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