.
(See also reply from a Mr Howard received on Oct 26th - and Nick Green's response on Oct 28th)

26 September 2002

 

Dear Mr Victory

 

RE: CUMBRIAN FMD INQUIRY REPORT

Mr Rex Toft, Cumbria County Council Chairman, announced after Prof. Thomas had delivered his FMD Inquiry report that “The £95,000 cost of the inquiry represented good value.” He went on to say he was unsure if the Council would still press for a full Government Inquiry.

Well it may be that Mr Toft believes this inquiry is good value, but for this report to represent good value it would need to be accurate, well balanced and complete. Sadly this report fails on all counts.

Mr Toft also stated in February, when the plans for the Cumbrian FMD Inquiry were released, that Cumbrians needed to have accountability: -

“We need to draw a line under the past and give communities a chance to hold decision makers to account, challenging their part in the crisis.”

Mr Toft went on

“Although our inquiry will not have statutory powers of compulsion, it will morally compel those who made decisions to account for them. It will not be a witch hunt, but will be a major attempt by this Council to learn everything that needs to be learnt.”

I was delighted on hearing this announcement but my joy quickly turned to frustration when Prof. Thomas told me that accountability was NOT on his agenda. Already some confusion. As we approached the release date for the Cumbria FMD report I became increasingly concerned that we were to be presented with another “whitewash”. My concerns have now been confirmed.

This report is a whitewash. It is a watered down, inaccurate and incomplete report on the real story of Cumbria FMD 2001. It is a disgrace. Cumbria has been let down badly. The question is why?

My first question to the County Coucil and in particular to Mr Toft, is how, given the shallow, blunt and cowardly content of the report, can Cumbrians “draw a line under the past and give communities a chance to hold decision makers to account, challenging their part in the crisis.” Prof. Thomas was very careful not to mention names and indeed was very careful to withhold damning evidence condemning the performance of senior government officials. This evidence was leaked to me and copies were given to Prof. Thomas. He also withheld more evidence describing the incompetence of MAFF during the cull. This evidence was contained within the National Police Report on FMD and also leaked to me in 2001.

I will look at further statements made by Mr Toft.

“Although our inquiry will not have statutory powers of compulsion, it will morally compel those who made decisions to account for them. It will not be a witch hunt, but will be a major attempt by this Council to learn everything that needs to be learnt.”

There has clearly been nothing moral about this government, or indeed any government or civil servants. Lying and misrepresentation is the norm. Why then does Mr Toft feel that,  “it will morally compel those who made decisions to account for them.”?

It is worth noting that when Prime Minister Blair was questioned by Dr Anderson during the LLI Inquiry on matters concerning the 3KM cull, Blair could not even remember who took the decision for ordering this illegal, unscientific and bullying policy. How naove to think there would be any “moral compulsion” from proven liars.

Mr Toft, please advise me on how I can hold decision makers to account.

This weak Cumbrian FMD Report asks more questions than it answers. Whilst continually brushing aside the important issue of vaccination with statements such as “I don’t want to get onto that subject, it`s too complicated.” Prof. Thomas continually evaded the subject. However, when I read his report, I noted that Prof. Thomas had seen fit to add his own opinions on vaccination. Does Prof Thomas believe that Cumbrians are too stupid to understand the FMD vaccination issue?  I would remind Prof. Thomas that it was me who arranged for Prof. Fred Brown, the worlds leading expert on FMD eradication and control to come to Cumbria and address interested parties. Prof. Thomas was accompanied with two other FMD experts of world renown, Simon Barteling and Paul Strollers. I have a copy of their CB`s and I note that Prof. Brown has written nearly 400 scientific papers on the subject of FMD eradication & control. Prof. Brown does not believe the subject of FMD vaccination is complicated. Indeed if the world really wished to eradicate FMD completely, it could by using FMD vaccine.

I believe that to suggest that the vaccination issue was too complicated for individuals was arrogance in the extreme. I am not a scientist; I am not as well qualified as Prof. Thomas (He has a PHD in Animal Biochemistry) but I have had access to world experts (and others) in FMD control for the last 18 months and I am not stupid either.

Of further concern to me was why did Prof. Thomas stick studiously to every fact stated by MAFF as correct? MAFF have never been recognized as being accurate in their statements, but sadly Prof. Thomas accepted figures given by MAFF seemingly without question.

He states that there were 2026 Infected Premises. This deserves closer scrutiny. Only 1324 premises were Laboratory positive, with 401 negative and 171 untested. (JCS DATA analysis). Clearly there were far less than 2026.

For interest, 10,509 farms were slaughtered out, but on less than 13% of these farms was laboratory evidence of FMD found. This testing is accepted to be at least 90% accurate. (Prizefight statement).

Prof.. Thomas states “The development of the contiguous culling policy was more scientific than the 3km cull.” It could barely be less scientific than the 3km cull. There was no scientific reason to impose the 3km cull at all and this policy was lambasted by, amongst others, the IAH at Pirbright. So where on earth did Prof. Thomas dream this one up? I know of one farm that was culled out partially due to the owners “becoming difficult” and the remaining stock (cattle & pigs) were left alive and remained FMD free.

Further comments by Prof. Thomas have gone unchallenged. He states that,

“The contiguous cull………could be seen as consistent with EU Food & Veterinary Office recommendation arising from its mission during 12-16 march 2001.”

This was factually correct (I gave Prof.Thomas this information.) However he forgets to state that this policy was ILLEGAL under EU Law. A policy of isolation and monitoring was all that was allowed. The killing of healthy animals under UK law was also illegal. The Upton Vs DEFRA case resulted in DEFRA having to pay some £40,000 costs and the presiding Judge stated that DEFRA had no legal right to conduct blanket culling. DEFRA knew this of course and interestingly retired with a bloody nose and never attempted court action on this subject again. Why Prof. Thomas did you fail to comment on the legality of the cull?

Prof. Thomas also added (part of his brief?) his own unscientific and inaccurate comments. He states that the higher ratios of culling healthy farms resulted in the quicker eradication of the disease. He again believes exactly what MAFF statistics tell him.

Take Dumfries & Galloway. According to the Thomas report D&G slaughtered out around 7.5 farms per I/P. WRONG.  There were 176 so called I/P`s. Of these, 157 were sampled and 56 were negative. Not one DC contiguous or non-contiguous or SOS farm (all were tested) was found to have FMD.

Now, by reassessing these figures and noting that there were in fact only 101 I/P`s and 1319 Contig./SOS/DC farms, we arrive at the staggering value of 13.05 farms culled out per I/P. The bloody cost of early FMD control in Scotland.

Even the most stupid individual could control FMD quickly by killing all the animals in the area. This would be similar to removing all cars from our roads to reduce accidents.

Prof. Thomas appears to have glossed over these facts. Perhaps his professional involvement in the Scottish agricultural industry for the last 20 odd years clouded his thoughts.

It also occurred to me that the number of contiguous and other farms in Cumbria culled per I/P (around 2.4) was simply because the level so called I/P`s was so high. Particularly in the North of the County and along the Penrith Spur, there were few so called “healthy” farms to take out. Of course the ratio was lower than D&G, there was more “infectivity” here. Am I being over simplistic? I don’t think so.

Prof. Thomas also naively states,

 “Consistent with the introduction of the 3km cull (after 15th March), Cumbrian outbreaks began to decline after the additional introduction of the contiguous cull (after 26th March 2001). There is a suggestion that, from the peak of the epidemic, the rate of the decline may have been slightly slower in Cumbria, but both there and elsewhere the epidemic had reduced to the “tail” levels by the week commencing 8 May 2001.”

Professor Thomas has clearly not done his homework here.

I quote Mr Alan Beat BSC, who submitted a paper to the LLI and which DEFRA has been unable to provide any satisfactory argument:-

 

EXTRACT:-

 

The decline in the epidemic can be shown to be independent of the new culling measures as follows:-

 

The peak of the epidemic had already passed, and the steady decline in daily case numbers well established, BEFORE any possible impact of the new culling policies could have taken place. Even if the 48 hour target for CP culling had been met (which it was not), the incubation and early infectious stages of the disease allow an average of nine days to pass between exposure to the virus and the appearance of clinical signs for farm diagnosis. To re-cap the key dates are:-

 

23rd March 2001 Contiguous culling introduced with local veterinary assessment.

26th March 2001 Epidemic peaks with 54 cases a day.

29th March 2001 24/48 hour culling policy introduced.

9th April 2001 First possible impact of 24/48 hour culling, cases down to 32 per day.

 

The impact of the 24/48 hour culling could not have begun to take effect on reported new cases of infection until 11 days following 29th march 2001 (48hrs. plus 9 days incubation). On that date, 9th April 2001, the daily case numbers had already declined to an average of 32 per day and Prof. King was expressing “cautious optimism” that the new measures were starting to “turn things around” (Vet. Record, 14th April 2001). Yet clearly this was not, and could not be the case. 

If the new culling policies were to make an impact on the course of the epidemic, this would show as a marked decline in daily case numbers commencing on or around 9th April 2001. That did not happen, in fact there is no significant change in the pattern of decline at any point that can be attributed to the new culling policies.”

 Mr Alan Beat has challenged many of the principal players with the above argument since it was first published in The Western Morning News in November 2001 – King, Anderson, Woolhouse, Keeling, Pirbright, EFRA Select Committee and others. NONE has made any attempt to refute it. They simply have no counter argument to offer.

I note that Mr Toft was careful to state that the Chairman of the Cumbria FMD committee would have to be “independent”. Was it therefore a good choice to appoint someone who has worked very closely with MAFF/DEFRA and is a former government advisor on animal feeds? Prof. Thomas is an ex. Chairman of AMTRA, an independent regulatory body whose task it is to ensure that the distribution of animal medicines in the UK is undertaken in a responsible manner. Interestingly, the board of AMTRA consists of two directors appointed by DEFRA and one each from The NFU and the BVA. He was also the Chairman of ACAF, advisory committee on Animal Feeding Stuffs for MAFF. A three-year appointment commencing in April 1999. Again, interestingly, the secretary was Mr Tony Hitching of DEFRA. Oddly, Prof. Thomas resigned as Chairman before his contract was complete in May 2001, bang in the middle of FMD.

This organisation (ACAF) has major connections with the Food Standards Agency and its Chairman Sir John Krebs, who is great friends with Prof. King, government Chief Scientist and Prof. Roy Anderson who was part of the team who dreamed up the illegal 3km cull. 

Krebs said of Prof. Thomas, “Phil Thomas has chaired ACAF with distinction for the last two years. The Committee’s latest annual report, published a few days ago, is testimony to the time and effort that its chairman and members have put into considering sensitive issues of great public concern, such as GM ingredients in animal feeds.”

All very neat & tidy. It is inconceivable to believe that any of these people, who are all linked in some way or another, would criticise each other.

An independent Chairman? No way.

This report will go down in history, along with the LLI report and other government sponsored inquiries as a scandalous whitewash. Inaccurate, incomplete hog-wash.

I have only touched on some aspects of the report here. However, given my grave reservations concerning the report made by Prof. Thomas, does the County Council still believe the report was good value? Will the Chairman still press for an open and independent inquiry? Why were the perpetrators of the FMD crimes committed in Cumbria and elsewhere allowed to go unchallenged? How can the people of Cumbria obtain accountability?

Finally, who appointed Prof. Thomas?

 I wait with interest for your reply.

 

Yours sincerely.

 

 Mr N. L GREEN