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Interesting contribution yesterday to the Guardian's discussion on "what have we learned" from an emailer humorously called "sodbuster"
David Shannon's comments are very important.He's referring to the Imperial college team headed By prof Roy Anderson, whose flawed epidemiological advice steered govt policy on FMD.
It is hard to understand why the government and MAFF/DEFRA persisted with their dogmatic implementation of the Anderson "inspired" contiguous cull policy, especially when it has been so comprehensively rubbished by some of the worlds leading experts on FMD. Including Dr Alex Donaldson and Dr Paul Kitching, of IAH Pirbright Lab, and Prof Fred Brown of the USDA.
Donaldson has shown that the contiguous cull is unjustifiable with regard to disease control in his articles in the Vetinary Record of the 12th May.Both Dr Donaldson and Fred brown have conducted experiments which demonstrate that aerosol spread from the O strain of virus is minimal under UK field conditions. In a worse case scenario it would take 100 sheep all showing symptoms symultainiously to cause infection by aerosol spread to a maximum distance of 200 metres.
Despite overwhelming evidence from these eminent men, maff and the govt. chose to adopt the 48 hour contigous cull policy advocated by Professor Roy Anderson of imperial college. A man who has no vetinary experience and no specialist knowledge of FMD.
Anderson was "parachuted " in to Tony Blairs FMD think tank when it became clear that MAFF were failing, and Blair was desperate to get Foot an Mouth out of the way by election time. It was apparent that, due to the extent of the outbreak, and the length of time FMD had remained undetected, the outbreak was going to have a long "tail". Anderson's radical proposals must have seemed like an attractive way of reducing the chance of embarassing future flare ups of the disease .
Ironically, an article by Woolhouse et al(including Donaldson) in Nature (May 17), states that the epidemic was already "under control" by the time Anderson's policy was implemented. Under control, by Anderson's own definition, meaning that every infected premises discovered gives rise to less than one further infected premises, so the disease is on a downward curve. I believe the govt. paniced, and instigated Anderson's policy without considering the logistic and environmental problems posed by such wide scale slaughter and disposal of livestock.
Anderson was a protege of former chief scientist and recent peoples peer sir Robert May, he, along with current chief scientist David King and head of the FSA Sir John Krebs all had a hand in ensuring Anderson's team were given the job of advising Blair.
I believe that Blair is aware that he took the wrong advice, before the election he is said to have refered to anderson as "a wanker and a bastard" during one of the COBRA sessions. The trouble is they couldn't make a U turn in policy so close to the election.
This is why the govt are so desperate not to have a public enquiry. It is not just the fact that they have slaughtered too many animals, a lot of the electorate probably don't care about this, it is the wider implications of the unnecessary and unjustified contiguous cull; the polution of drinking water with BSE prions, cancer causing dioxins from pires, the near bancrupcy of whole sections of the tourist industry, which are almost inconceivable. This has to rank as one of the bigest scandals in British political history.