report of Meeting November 29th 2001
Speakers:

Peter Ainsworth MP (Shadow Spokesman on Rural Affairs)

Roger Windsor MBE. MA (Cantab), BSc (Edin) BVM&S, MRCVS.
Barbara Jordan B.A. (Hons) - solicitor
Roger Green B.Vet Med MRCVS President Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons
Lawrence Alderson MA C.Biol MI Biol Director Rare Breeds International
Mark Richer B Vet Med, Cert Sam, Dip Law barrister RCVS hon advisor to RSPCA

Resolution passed at the end of the meeting

A Meeting in The House of Commons November 29th 2001 to explore issues of concern with regard to the Animal health amendment Bill

  • it is unreasonable and wrong to introduce such draconian measures without the reports either of the government's own inquiries or, to be far more desired, the proper independent public inquiry consitently argued for by the Opposition. It offers inadequate rights of appeal against arbitrary decisions to order mass slaughter, and proposes unjust arrangements for compensation;

  • Written into the heart of this Bill is the notion that it was farmers who were responsible for allowing Foot & Mouth to get out of control. This is a shabby attempt to shift the blame from where it belongs - with Ministers and their officials. ; It confers sweeping new powers on the very people who stand accused of incompetence

  • It offers inadequate rights of appeal against arbitrary decisions to order mass slaughter, and proposes unjust arrangements for compensation; It is unfair in its treatment of Magistrates

  • It has been hastily prepared, without any consultation, and it pre-empts the findings of the Government's own inquiries. Any new legislation to combat FMD should be based on the recommendations of a fully independent Public Inquiry.

  • By failing to tackle inadequate import controls, it will do nothing to prevent future outbreaks of serious animal disease. We could import foot and mouth again tomorrow

    In short, this is an unjust bill, it's a disproportionate bill, an unfair bill, a bill that confers more powers - unreasonable powers - on people who themselves have been found wanting, guilty of incompetence, guilty of insensitivity and guilty of bungling. Peter Ainsworth

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    Roger Windsor MBE. MA (Cantab), BSc (Edin) BVM&S, MRCVS.

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    Barbara Jordan B.A. (Hons) - solicitor

    Roger Green B.Vet Med MRCVS President Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons

  • The distinction to be made between the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and the BVA is that the former is a statutory regulator responsible for education, keeping the register of qualified veterinary surgeons and looking after the conduct thereof and is concerned with ethics of action taken by veterinary surgeons to control disease. Under the Royal Charter there is also a wider role of promoting veterinary science and education.

  • What is good about the bill is to have the disease control powers clarified and exposed to Parliamentary debate and also general debate as here.

  • The lack of consultation, however, is unforgiveable. Something this serious should not be rushed. The bill wasn't published until 31st October and the Second Reading was on November 12th. The tearing hurry is quite unnecessary. The suspicion must be that there was a hole in the law that the bill now attempts to fill.

  • The scope of the slaughter powers seem unclear. It certinly appears that any species could be involved for any disease. Although the Minister of State said in a Parliamentary answer that it only concerned foot and mouth by positive decision it could be applied to any disease and any species. If that includes all the OIE "A" diseases, the diseases that cause epidemics and that are very serious, horses could be included easily into this. What of rabies: cats and dogs? Much more specification is needed about what species these powers apply to.

  • There are ethical problems for veterinary surgeons being presented with instructions, especially from non-professionals, to perform tasks, such as slaughter, which are at variance with their considered scientific and professional opinion. If they are told to kill animals without clinical or scientific justification they are going to have ethical problems. Veterinary surgeons working for DEFRA either have to do as they are told - or resign. We don't want to have to have a war out there in the middle of an epidemic. There must be proper justification for the slaughter at all times.

    One more question needs an answer; there are now plans published for two parts of the country in the Access to the Countryside Act. How does this fit in the with "biosecurity" that farmers are supposed to exert? (evident agreement and murmurs of 'hear hear' from the audience)
    Roger Green

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    Lawrence Alderson MA C.Biol MI Biol Director Rare Breeds International

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    Mark Richer B Vet Med, Cert Sam, Dip Law barrister RCVS hon advisor to RSPCA

    A proposition: proposed by Miss Janet Bayley, seconded by Mr Guy Thomas Everard

    RE: ANIMAL HEALTH BILL - AMENDMENT 39 TO THE STANDING COMMITTEE CONSIDERING THE AMENDMENT & OTHER MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT

    We oppose the AMENDMENTS TO THE ANIMAL HEALTH BILL (39) on the following grounds:

    1 PREMATURITY - of the legislation prior to the findings of the 3 planned Inquiries into FMD, particularly the Royal Society Inquiry, which is due to consider disease control and the efficacy of current methods.

    2 THE LACK OF JUSTIFICATION FOR THE BILL - in relation to the lack of published data and facts regarding the FMD outbreak - and call upon the Secretary of State to substantiate her claims of justification, made at the 2nd reading of the Bill, by publishing this data.

    3 THAT EXISTING LEGISLATION PROVIDES SUFFICIENT POWERS to control diseases - and an that an increase and extension is not necessary or desirable.

    4 THAT THE BILL WAS MOST LIKELY PREPARED AS A THEORETICAL RESPONSE TO BSE IN SHEEP - This scenario has not developed. Therefore the need for such legislation is not justified or required.

    5 THAT SUCH LEGISLATION IS NEITHER A RATIONAL, PROPORTIONATE OR REASONABLE RESPONSE - to the perceived risks posed of onward transmission of the disease - and the validity of legislation based on what a Minister 'thinks' may be infected is not a tenable or legitimate basis for legislation.

    This proposition was passed with a unanimous show of hands from all speakers, visitors and audience present. There were no abstentions.

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