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Printed in the Farmers Guardian November 2004

6th. November 2004.
 
The Editor,
Farmers` Guardian
 
 
Madam,
 
            When BSE descended on a stunned livestock farming industry it began with the assumption that a Transferable Spongiform Encephalopathy (TSE) exclusive to cattle, had by some magic means, made itself transferrable to humans in the form of CJD or, later, nvCJD.
 
            The first I knew of it was whilst working in the NHS where some of my female staff became excited that their somewhat impoverished scientist husbands had got contracts to investigate BSE - whatever that was. As far as they were concerned it was work and it was money, although one of them did say that the way to keep a contract going for some years was to greet enquiries with the phrase: "we are really close to a result". As we have seen, the phrase obviously worked.
 
            I have no specific knowledge of TSE`s but Mother Nature seems to have given each of a number of species a specific variety. Cattle, Sheep, Goats, Mink, Cats etc. all have their own version. Humans, however, appear to have three: CJD, nvCJD and the strange, Far Eastern version, Kuru. But beyond trying to identify the cause of BSE, the scientists beavered away trying to prove that a type-specific disease could transfer horizontally from one type to another. What became apparent was that if you injected a known BSE-infected substance into the living brain of another breed of animal under rigid laboratory conditions, horizontal transfer and infection was possible. As a famous scientist observed "under such conditions one could infect a rhinocerous"
 
            The BSE programme lingers on after the death of thousands of animals via the OTM scheme which should have been cancelled but the department of Health has now stuck its oar in. Meanwhile the National Scrapie Programme barges on and will, upon its completion, have removed almost all typey-ness from breeding sheep. By this I mean that the characteristics which identify and separate specific breeds are not generally contained in the sheep with the ARR/ARR genotypes which are permitted for breeding. This ill-thought-out programme may well succeed in destroying many (all?) of the characteristics which over the years have made British sheep unique and successful. We could lose meat quality, hardiness and disease-resistance to name just three.
 
            So before any further damage is done to the already-hammered British Livestock Industry, would it be sensible to take a long, hard look at where all this is leading? Whilst we would use scientific and practical knowledge of these issues, perhaps we could try to keep the matter in the hands of those not directly manipulating the scientific studies. [The final sentence was deleted for publishing which was:- As an old doctor once said to me "you can make sperm go through the heel of a Wellington boot.....if they pay you enough money]
 
 
Yours faithfully
 
 
Peter Greenhill
12 Parkside Avenue
Cockermouth, Cumbria