NOTES taken at the ROYAL SOCIETY OF EDINBURGH INQUIRY Public Meeting Dumfries 11th March 2002

 

 

CHAIR: (Welcomed everyone.)

 

FLOOR: There was too much delay and there were not the right experts. All diseases have a plan of action with the right experts for the job. Professor Brown came to Britain and was told he wasn't needed. Please use him in future. We were told in the beginning that the disease would not show. We were told that vaccinated stock would not be brought by supermarkets. - this was due to mis-information supplied to them. We need plans mapped out rather than just reacting. We jumped into a ditch - not over it. Vaccination programme would have meant the Countryside need not have closed. Vaccination must be looked at very seriously.

 

CHAIR: You may be interested to know that Prof.Brown is coming to see one of our Committees on Thursday.

 

FLOOR: Why wasn't every movement inspected immediately? MAFF lifted straw from FMD infected areas into clean areas. Infected straw should have been used on the pyres.

 

CHAIR: traceability is a changing scene.

 

FLOOR: I work for the NHS Trust and have looked into the general well-being and mental health of people affected and the cull had a profound effect on families. Farmers and their families suffered more than tourism. Children were affected - all this should be taken into account when people keep saying culling is the right policy and would be used again'

 

The 1967 recommendations were not acted on. Will the recommendations from this and other Inquiries be taken into account in future?

 

JUANITA WILSON: I am sitting here tonight between two people who have suffered. On my right is Kirstin McBride, who you may know was today given an absolute discharge and Andy Hurst who admits he has lost his motivation. We felt as though we were in the midst of a civil war. This type of cull can never be allowed to happen. In fact the Judge today even questioned the legality of what went on.

 

FLOOR: The decision making is always political - not scientific. First it was the Chief Vet then the Chief Scientific Officer and then the epidemiologists. Each time it's a political decision as to which group of experts to listen to. The Inquiry must look at the politics. Those that made the decisions were obviously incompetent.

 

ROGER WINDSOR: The facts were that the '67 outbreak was controlled by the Chief Veterinary Officer. There was no interference from politicians. In its way the '67 outbreak of the disease was worse than this one as it peaked much higher. In the '67 outbreak there were over 80 outbreaks in a day as opposed to 40 in a day this time but at no time then did the Government panic.

 

The cull was not instigated by Vets but by chemists and mathematicians. Further outbreak of the disease should be handled by Vets not computer experts. We've seen hundreds of families damaged, people in court for acts taken to save their animals.

THIS MUST NEVER BE ALLOWED TO HAPPEN AGAIN.

 

FLOOR: I had one pet sheep in an acre of garden. Media and traffic were allowed to drive past infected premises. I thought Lockerbie would have been closed but it wasn't. I believe there are four ways the disease can spread:

(1) Windborne - there was not much evidence of that except where it was the smoke from the pyres. (2) Vehicles, (3) between animals and (4) on people and their clothes.

The concentration in fighting the disease was on the animals not on people. Farmers realised this early on and made themselves into fortresses and remained clean but got caught up in the contiguous cull.

 

A farmer near me was considered a dangerous contact. Two weeks later they came to kill his sheep. They came with an unsealed Ifor trailer and five other assorted vehicles. There was no disinfectant, the sheep were rugby tackled onto the trailer, killed, then their bodies taken off and the next group put on for killing. As they left I saw them wipe their feet on the grass. One had a sprayer and I saw him run up the road to a nearby animal watering trough, fill it and then spray back down the road to the farm. He then walked back through the sprayed area.

 

We had owned WOOLLY our sheep for 4years. We had no Form A, no blood test. Only 10 minutes notice. Ten slaughtermen came to my gate to slaughter him. I said I wanted my own Vet to put him down. I was told that I was holding up the Crown. Eventually I was allowed and my Vet injected WOOLLY. My sheep and these other sheep were trailered 10 miles to the pyre with blood and juices spilling onto the road. A farmer said to me if that's how they are handling it, we are dead beat'


My two young sons wanted to know what had happened to WOOLLY. I had to tell them that these people were taking him to a better place.

 

We organised a demo at the Bunker, where the disease was being controlled from;one of the group arrived late and asked a Defra official for directions to the particular gate that we were meeting at. He said he could not tell her, as it was an official secret! I could not believe how our rights were taken away so quickly. Defra acted like the Police. It was a nightmare scenario and I thought this was a democratic country.

 

FLOOR: Almost a year ago now my cattle were killed in a contiguous cull, but I don't wish to dwell on that. I instructed my Solicitor to write to MAFF. There was no acknowledgement.

 

What I never understood and have never had an answer to was how a Vet could issue my animals with a Form A despite never seeing them? I was told that she was 90% sure. They were taken away on a lorry not even to the nearby pyre.

 

I was born and brought up on a farm and my family before me. - I now have a complete distrust of Vets, NFU, the Government, the Scottish Executive and even some farmers. The only good thing to come out of this was the tremendous support from people off the street that I didn't even know - the very people who will pay for the cost of this fiasco

 

 

ALEX FERGUSON: I am an NSP in Galloway. I supported the cull from start to finish. What bothers me is:

At the start of the outbreak all premises were tested - soon that criteria changed to slaughter on suspicion then that triggered the 3km cull. What I think slew FMD was not all the culling but the fact that it just ran out. All of a sudden slaughter on suspicion was brought to an end and bloodtesting restarted and the disease halted

 

IMPORTED MEAT - I suspect Auction Marts will take the blame; they should not be the scapegoats, not when we know it almost definitely came through imported meat.

On first suspicion all movement of livestock should have stopped immediately.

The 67 Report had 100 recommendations - may I ask that this one has no more than 10 that can be updated.

 

I understood that the reason given for the 3km cull was to save cattle so why was the contiguous cull brought in? I supported the Scottish Assembly the whole way through but this must never happen again.

 

CHAIR: We had already discussed keeping fewer recommendations. I don't know how many it will be but it certainly will not be 100. We will be looking into imports.

 

FLOOR: On imported meat, we don't know how it came into this Country. The farmer at Heddon didn't do the swill - it was his neighbour and his animals never got FMD. He's being made a fall guy. He looks rough and unpleasant. He doesn't farm like most of us. His animals had been inspected by MAFF 2weeks earlier. MAFF/RSPCA inspected him 3 weeks prior. Did they miss something? Is he a fall guy?

 

New Zealand were disinfecting people in January. Canada knew before that. What is being hidden? I don't believe people are being straight. Why ban our exports yet import from 26 countries that have endemic FMD?

 

 

FLOOR: Our neighbour was confirmed on 2nd March. My sheep were not taken until 4th April. There was nothing wrong with them. We need to look into vaccination.

 

 

FLOOR: If the animals had not succumbed in four weeks test them. There are two tests now. It will take 20 minutes for a result. Everything should be tested before being killed. Contiguous culling claimed many farms only to find that the original farm tests came back negative. No logic was used. The smoke from pyres certainly played a part in the spread. When lit from the bottom pyres warm up bit by bit and the disease rises and gets blown in the wind. Where the wind blew the smoke so the disease erupted.

 

FLOOR: I didn't have FMD but a friend in Longtown had 360 milking cows. One developed a sore teat and soon he could only get 60 cows into the milking parlour. Vets should have the authority to say an animal should be killed now.

 

FLOOR: Vets said you would not be able to miss FMD in your animals

 

FLOOR: one thing to learn from this was that it was controlled from London. Local Vets had to contact Page Street to be told what they could do. Local Vets would have been more able to control it, as they would know the lie of the land. There needed to be daily confirmation among staff at the bunker. No one seemed to know what was happening. They all seemed to have their own worlds that they were working in.

 

A friend needed to go onto farms with potatoes. If one official said NO to a licence he would keep phoning till he got someone that would say YES.

 

FLOOR: Communication needs to be improved. The way the paperwork was dealt with was appalling. We had no outbreak, we were told that the paperwork was updated every five years but the paperwork that we were given was last updated 19 yrs ago. A Vet came on site working with carbon paper. Why not computers? They were always losing information.

 

ROGER WINDSOR 20yrs ago we had a State Veterinary Service that we could be proud of. But this has been drastically cut. All middle management ranks were cut - these were the people who dealt with the paperwork. Things were a disaster not because of those on the ground but because of those who weren't on the ground - those that had been cut. If we want good disease control then we have to pay for it.

 

FLOOR: I am in a unique situation. I am a farmer and I supply animal feed. All farms should have been put under strict restrictions. I made 50 lorry movements a day unchallenged. One farm eight miles away from the mill got FMD . It must have been spread by the wind. It was definitely windborne and sometimes confined to buildings. The Vet said that in one case the disease had blown in and dropped off the roofs in condensation onto the animals. We need clarification of how the disease is transmitted. MAFF didn't close us for months - - they proved in all these cases that the FMD was not spread through human contact so it wasn't my lorries.

 

FLOOR We obviously can not run 580 SVS Vets as in '67. We could do with almost a Territorial Army sort of thing. Train up Vets to deal with an emergency.

 

FLOOR: We must ensure in future that there must be someone that we can all trust to look to. I was affected at the end of April after a neighbouring farm went down. When they valued our sheep they also said they were to value the cattle as well but we weren't to sign the valuation sheet until they had decided whether or not to kill the cattle. In the end they did. We stopped the disease quicker in Scotland than elsewhere. If vaccination worked I would be 100% for it. There needs to be a structure in place where there are experts who can make decisions. My sheep and cattle were very much my life. Whether pets or farm animals and whatever policy is best we should go with the experts at the time. I grudgingly let mine go in the hope that I was helping someone else further down the line.

 

FLOOR: In my case my Vet Mr McKenzie said there was no risk of FMD on my farm. A Vet from Edinburgh confirmed that decision also. But London said slaughter. If we have experts lets listen to them NOT politicians 400 miles away.

 

ROGER WINDSOR: Someone asked about a T.A of Vets, this does already exist to a degree in LVi's. I think this is the way forward. There is a definite need for LVi's to be integrated and they should have a contract. There can be many spin-offs from this. Veterinary practices are fast disappearing - it won't be long before there will be hardly any rural practices in this Country. We have a plan which will be ready by Thursday (March 14) ready for a meeting where we will be discussing a T.A. of Vets.

 

FLOOR: Mr Windsor, there is a big difference between Vets on the ground and politicians. Vets take an oath to care for animals and then they had to go against that. How did they cope?

 

RICHARD WINDSOR: Going back to '67, experienced Vets took calls in London, which took the pressure off Vets on the ground. We changed staffing not policies. There were not enough staff to man the phones so guys off the street were brought into Page Street.

 

The serious ethical problems have caused me considerable anguish. It was quite wrong for Vets to slaughter healthy animals that were in no danger of getting the disease. I can't live with Vets seeing them healthy and then signing Form A's. I could not do it. Often they were young inexperienced Vets from outside Britain. Vets were threatened and blackmailed. One Vet was told that if he didn't sign the Form A then the farmer would not get his compensation when his animals were culled. What was this Vet supposed to do? THIS MUST NOT HAPPEN AGAIN.It has done our reputation no good at all - we have to rebuild that trust.

 

FLOOR The professionalism of the Vets was very good. Vets who took an oath to help animals and then spend their days killing them must have found it very difficult. It was all left too long resulting in many more animals having to be killed. We must keep FMD out of the Country and there must be a robust strategy for dealing with it in future

 

FLOOR I live and work in this area. Many other businesses were affected. Has anyone here got any information about the effect on the socio-economic impact on other industries in Dumfries and Galloway?

 

MARGARET BURTON of Dumfries & Galloway Chamber: I am here because I am interested to hear what the farming community has to say. I am due to give evidence tomorrow regarding the economic impact.

 

FLOOR I looked in on many local shops in Dumfries - everyone had lost money - even hairdressers - it was like a ghost town. Many farmers diversified into tourism so they were doubly affected by the crisis

 

CHAIR Tomorrow we are meeting with the Federation of Small Businesses

 

FLOOR: The '67 Report recommended the early introduction of the Army. I have been an Army Officer for 37yrs. Our files warn of the early introduction in a case of FMD and we were ready for that. The Bunker stated that when the Army did arrive it helped immensely. The Army has to be called out by the Government - the decision was not taken soon enough. The Army must be called in much earlier in future - this may have spared the 3km cull.

 

FLOOR: Our Council decided they were funding this fight from Day One. Dumfries and Galloway were between #4-6 million in debt by the time the Scottish Executive came up with any money. If we call in the Army who pays for them? We must have it from London that money is available for this.

 

FLOOR People selling stock from infected areas received #30-#50 less per animal, as there was nowhere else to send them.

Survivors who had been left with stock have sold them in the autumn at disadvantaged prices. They can't restock nor compete with prices against those with compensation cheques.

 

FLOOR It was disgraceful that the Police were used so much. At Mossburn they were due to be culled at 10am. The Police arrived at 6am, blocked off the road and didn't even allow essential staff through to feed the animal.

 

FLOR: Compensation? It should be compulsory purchase. If we were truly compensated then there would have been a much bigger bill.

 

CHAIR: There has been an element of repeatability this evening but I must thank you all for coming and speaking so freely and frankly.