Back to website

(warmwell transcript)

Farming Today  Wednesday  22 September 2004
FT ~  On the programme last week we heard about research into the disastrous foot and mouth outbreak of 2001 suggesting that the practice of contiguous culling, the slaughtering of animals next to infected premises, did little if anything to hold the spread of the disease - a theory subscribed to by Dr Roger Breeze, until recently a senior figure at the United States Department of Agriculture, where he developed portable and rapid testing systems, known as PCRs. (sic) 
He's convinced there are other options besides slaughter.
Dr Roger Breeze:  I believe there are alternative tools that are already available to deal with this: vaccines, diagnostics, rapid diagnostics and in fact we don't have to engage in mass slaughter.
Unfortunately, the dogma of mass slaughter is the international dogma that has been around for many, many years - and it's time we changed it.
FT ~ Well, how dependable are the alternatives you propose, to avoid contiguous culling, for example, as we had here in the UK 3 or 4 years ago?
Dr Roger Breeze:  The rapid diagnostic tests which have been developed, which you can use on-farm and we can get an answer within 45 minutes are very reliable.  In fact they are exactly the same tests that are used once the sample that gets taken to the lab a couple of days later and the only difference is that the diagnostic test is done on the farm and you save a great deal of time.  And in that time you can take actions to stop the disease spreading.
FT ~  There are grave doubts among experts here in the UK as to the efficacy and to the speed of such tests as exist.
Dr Roger Breeze:  I actually don't agree with that.  These tests have been available for a number of years.  They're produced by reputable scientists working in first class institutions. 

So it is really preposterous for people to say that in some way this is some sort of theoretical device which has yet to be tested. 

The Department of Defense is using this every day in Afghanistan and Iraq - all over the world. 

There are thousands of these machines in use all the time.  And so, you know, the people who think this is theoretical really ought to get out there in the world and see what is really going on.


FT ~  Dr Roger Breeze.  Professor Sheila Crispin was a veterinary inspector during the 2001 epidemic and she too opposes contiguous culling.
Professor Sheila Crispin :  One of the worst aspect of contiguous culling was that you can make a clinical diagnosis of foot and mouth disease clinically.  Now it is quite easy to make a  misdiagnosis of foot and mouth disease because there are many other diseases that mimic foot and mouth disease and indeed the signs in sheep are often somewhat mild.  So if you then made a misdiagnosis you didn't just kill that farm with its uninfected livestock but you could kill other contiguous farms and the worst example comes from Wigtown where on the basis of 2 confirmed cases 218 farms had their stock slaughtered.
FT ~  There was at that time in the weeks running up to the contiguous cull the belief, perhaps understandable, that cases on one farm were the result of the disease spreading from one farm to the next farm or another nearby.
Professor Sheila Crispin :If you're going to use mathematical modelling with a contiguous culling policy then you have to be pretty sure that the input data are accurate.  And of course at the beginning of an epidemic that is one thing that you probably can't rely on.
FT ~  How confident are you, three years on,  that lessons have been learned about how we control the spread of such a disease?
Professor Sheila Crispin :Sometimes we seem to be heading in the right direction. The vaccination has of course been used with great success in Third World countries.  A lot of our problems with vaccination lay with export status.  I hope that a lot of that has now been sorted out.  Penside tests were available at the time of the epidemic.  They required field validation.  It would have been a wonderful opportunity one would have thought to do field validation of those tests.
FT ~  Sheila Crispin.  DEFRA accept   there were flaws in the mathematical model  on which the contiguous culling policy was based but say modelling remains a valuable tool.  They've looked at mobile PCR machines, they told us, but are also working on penside tests. (sic)

Extract ends