We have been writing a regular feature for "Country Smallholding" magazine

We have been writing a regular feature for "Country Smallholding" magazine
for more than ten years now, though the FMD crisis forced us to a temporary
halt.  The September issue (just out) contains a "diary" of the events that
affected our lives through the foot and mouth outbreak, including our
refusal of the contiguous cull and the eventual clearance of our flock on
blood testing.  The intention is to continue with more articles on FMD over
the next few issues covering the science, the legality and the trade
implications.


Local news:  We have heard that there is to be a meeting in Shebbear village
hall  on Monday 13th August with Anthony Gibson, organised by the local
Methodist Cicuit who felt that farmers needed to talk over various issues
concering FMD and the way forward.  The meeting starts at 2 pm.  We shall
both be there and look forward to having a chance to speak to Anthony Gibson
on various matters!

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Another request to Andrew King of Pirbright for information (from Alan):


My correspondents insist on asking me questions about FMD that I can't
answer!  Please can you help with these:

" What is the main route of infection of animals,-respiratory (the distance
of this infectivity has been under discussion) or alimentary?   The latter
seems odd since the virus is destroyed by acid, and this is present in the
stomach.   If not by the alimentary route, then how are pastures risky for
several months?   Does the virus go into aerosols?"

And with another set of queries (these from a scientist, as you might
guess):

">Alex Donaldson confirmed to me that acute
>disease has been confirmed in the Brecon sheep

Please ask Andrew - how this was confirmed and the numbers of
animals/samples
involved.

Are we talking just clinical signs or something more specific?

WRT 'carriers' - one may be able to detect virus - albeit with some
difficulty - from probang collected samples BUT WRT controlling spread of
virus this doesn't matter if carriers do not infect other animals in
the real world.

Your comments would be appreciated as always.
ENDS


Andrew's reply:


" What is the main route of infection of animals,-respiratory (the distance
of this infectivity has been under discussion) or alimentary?   The latter
seems odd since the virus is destroyed by acid, and this is present in the
stomach.   If not by the alimentary route, then how are pastures risky for
several months?   Does the virus go into aerosols?"

Answer: The natural point of initial entry, at least in cattle and sheep, is
generally accepted as being the same patch of skin in the dorsal oro-pharynx
where it persists after the acute phase is over.

The virus reaches the
pharynx either in the diet or in water droplets blown on the wind. If it is
on pasture then the only way it can infect is through being eaten.

The virus
only has one chance to infect the target tissue as it passes by, because,
once it is in the stomach, conditions will be too acid - even in the rumen -
for it to survive.

 

From the pharynx, of course, it spreads via the blood
stream and ends up causing acute disease (blisters) in many parts of the
body, but mainly in the especially actively dividing skin tissues just above
the hoof ("coronary band", I have heard it called) and in the mouth.

In
theory FMDV could also infect animals by entering through any of these
tissues, and indeed it is easy to set up an infection at those sites by
pricking the skin with an infected needle (i.e. by inoculating it).

The
reason it doesn't enter easily through these tissues naturally is, I assume,
to do with the fact that the tissues are pretty tough; the skin is thick and
keratinous, with an outer surface protected by a thick layer of dead cells.


Why it DOES enter the pharyngeal tissue so fantastically efficiently is
currently a mystery; now that we understand quite a bit about the molecular
mechanism with isolated cells, we are starting to apply that knowledge to
finding out exactly what happens in the pharynx. But that is for the future.


The story with pigs may be different. For one thing the equivalent
pharyngeal tissue in pigs covers a smaller area, and pigs are very much less
susceptible to infection by the airborne route than are cattle or sheep. On
the other hand, a lot of pigs together seem to be well able to transmit
diseases among themselves, even when they theoretically shouldn't be able to
(e.g. because the disease is known to be only spread by ticks, or whatever).
In other words, pigs seem to be very good at "inoculating" each other. If
you work with pigs you'll have a pretty good idea of how they do that to
each other.

 

Following on from the pig story, one can speculate that sheep
may also get inoculated sometimes through those knuckly bits of skin that
they habitually kneel on and which (I am told) often get sore. So that might
be an alternative way for virus on pasture to infect sheep.

 

Virus on pasture can't survive months. Temperature and humidity hugely influence survival
time. I don't know of any actual data on survival times on grass - as I keep
saying, epidemiology is not my bag - but I would guess a time limit of
between a few seconds and, at most, a few days depending on the conditions,
with the proviso that the virus is dying off all the time, and so the risk
is much higher at the start of the risk period than at the end. Aerosols can
be generated artificially, but I doubt that the virus commonly spreads on
the wind from pasture; it has to be eaten or, possibly with sore sheep,
leant on.

">Alex Donaldson confirmed to me that acute
>disease has been confirmed in the Brecon sheep

Please ask Andrew - how this was confirmed and the numbers of
animals/samples
involved.

Are we talking just clinical signs or something more specific?

Answer: I can't answer that. I have enquired, and I am not allowed to
divulge that kind of information.
Therefore, I am afraid there is nothing I
can add to my reply to the same question two emails ago (on 03/08/01). I am
not knowingly conspiring to cover anything up, and I have no reason to
suppose that any of my colleagues are doing that either. The problem is
simply that DEFRA are paying for the testing and they own the data (to that
extent I have to admit that the staff concerned ARE "DEFRA scientists"). As
I said on the 3rd, I actually don't know the answer to your question for
certain. Samples are coded (not for secrecy, but because there are so many
of them) and the test results go into massive databases of a complexity that
is impenetrable to all but a very few of the staff here. Some of the data
are beamed straight to DEFRA. In addition, we have a small team of vets here
on contract to DEFRA, but with experience of FMDV work (often ex-Pirbright
folk), and they liaise with DEFRA over test results. But very few people
here know any more, or even as much, as you do. Most are just very busy
getting on with their jobs. Doubtless, the information will one day be
pulled together, scientifically digested, and published. But if, in the
meantime, anyone wants to challenge what DEFRA are doing out in the field,
they will have to invoke their legal rights to information with DEFRA
themselves. Having to say that, as a scientist, goes against the grain. But
DEFRA rules!

WRT 'carriers' - one may be able to detect virus - albeit with some
difficulty - from probang collected samples BUT WRT controlling spread of
virus this doesn't matter if carriers do not infect other animals in
the real world.

Answer: My limited knowledge of carriers and their risks has been spread
thinly over several pages of emails at various times (the one earlier today,
on the 1st and 3rd of this month, and 31st July; also a number quite a while
ago), and I honestly have nothing useful to add, other than to re-emphasize
two points: FMDV is too infectious and too serious a disease to take
obviously risky chances with (and anything wondering around among flocks
shedding, even small amounts of, live virus for months on end poses an
obvious risk), and all virologists believe that persistence (not just of
FMDV, but of viruses generally) is a key way that viruses perpetuate their
species. I am sorry that science can't put precise numbers on these risks.
Science can tell you the mass of a virion to better than one part in a
million, but the sort of numbers that will help you are always going be of
the well-it-all-depends-on-the-circumstances variety. A good scientist
should never kid himself, or others, that he knows what is intrinsically
unknowable.
ENDS

Our comment:   We have pressed Andrew pretty hard over recent weeks with a
string of questions relating to carrier animals and the risks that they
pose.  His replies have built up an interesting picture of his view, as a
microbiologist working at Pirbright laboratory, of the dangers posed by
carriers.  He agrees that the risk of disease transmission is low, but not
that it is low enough to be ignored.  He quotes circumstantial evidence of
disease resurgence attributed to carriers, whilst agreeing that this cannot
be proved.


We don't think this is good enough science to kill thousands of sheep
carrying antibodies - in fact, we believe the killing has only to do with
"proving" FMD-free status to the EU.


We will be writing a detailed summary of the carrier issue, as we understand
it,  within the next few days.  Meanwhile, do let us have your own views!

#                                       #                                 #


From the Telegraph:


Blood tests are to be carried out on samples of the entire flock of 100,000
sheep on the Brecon Beacons amid fears that the foot and mouth virus may
have spread across the Welsh mountain range.

The National Assembly announced last night that it was tackling the crisis
in Wales by conducting tests on sheep in each of the 51 hefts - the
established territories - on open hillsides in the Beacons.

In a separate move, several thousand sheep on the Beacons are to be
slaughtered before the results of blood tests, following a change of policy.

The rural affairs minister, Carwyn Jones, has decided to carry out
contiguous culls of stock in hefts surrounding infected flocks. Sheep had
been culled in hefts only where the virus was found in blood tests.

The Farmers' Union of Wales said it was "somewhat concerned" by the new
policy, adding that it had written to Tony Edwards, Wales's chief vet, to
seek "a clear explanation of what the strategy is".

About 6,500 sheep in the Beacons have been slaughtered, and culling of a
further 3,700 began yesterday.

The culling of healthy stock is being challenged by Janet Hughes, the
co-ordinator of Farmers for Livestock Wales. She was yesterday trying to
take out an injunction to stop the cull

ENDS


Our comment:  It appears that all pretence of scientific justification for
slaughter has now been abandoned by the Welsh Assembly.  Why are they blood
testing if the sheep are slaughtered before the results come back?  Has any
live virus actually been found on the Beacons (Pirbright cannot give us that
answer)?  They may as well just tell the electorate (remember them?) exactly
what the new policy is.

#                                       #
#


From the Times:


SATURDAY AUGUST 11 2001

Epidemic lesson must be learnt, says vet

BY ANDREW NORFOLK

THE three new government inquiries into the foot-and-mouth epidemic will be
a waste of time if their findings meet the same fate as the report into the
1967 outbreak, a vet who worked through that epidemic said.
Ken Tyrrell, the veterinary surgeon who diagnosed the first and last cases
of the disease during the epidemic that hit 2,228 farms and led to the
publication of the 1969 Northumberland report. He accused the Government of
ignoring or delaying action on a host of its recommendations, including the
involvement of the Army, swift diagnosis and slaughter, the use of ring
vaccination and merits of burial in preference to funeral pyres.

The 1969 review, chaired by the Duke of Northumberland, made a detailed
series of recommendations on how Britain should deal with any future
outbreak of foot-and-mouth. Elliot Morley, the Agriculture Minister, said
recently that the Northumberland findings "form the basis of the Government'
s policy for keeping the disease out of the country, and of our contingency
plans for fighting an outbreak of foot-and-mouth".

Mr Tyrrell said, however, that had it learnt the lessons of 1967, the
Government would not only have brought this year's epidemic under control
much more quickly, but it would also have made it less likely for the first
case of infection to have arrived in Britain.

He said: "It is as if all our efforts in 1967 were worthless. We recorded
our findings for the benefit of future generations, but what was the use? No
one has paid the slightest attention."

Mr Tyrrell said that the Government had ignored the Northumberland report's
preventive advice to ban swill-feeding to pigs and to ban the import of meat
on the bone from countries where foot-and-mouth was endemic.

When the disease broke out: "If they had only taken the report out, dusted
it down and studied it, they would have called in the Army from day one,
they would have dealt with infection cases immediately, buried animals on
farms and disinfected premises completely within 24 hours.

"There is absolutely no point in holding three inquiries into foot-and-mouth
unless you are going to get to the bottom of what happened and then apply
the lessons you have learnt for the future. I have very, very little
confidence that this will happen."

Qualified support for Mr Tyrrell came from Francis Anthony, a former
president of the British Veterinary Association, who worked in Cheshire in
1967. Although he accepted the Government's argument that there were major
differences between the two outbreaks, not least the length of time before
the first case was diagnosed in 2001, which allowed the infection to be
spread by sheep all over the country, Mr Anthony said that there had still
been "dreadful, appalling delays".

He said: "I can remember telling the Government that if they took an axe to
the State Veterinary Service then the day they had a war, such as a
foot-and-mouth outbreak, they wouldn't be able to cope, and that's what
happened.

"The main lesson we learnt from 1967 was that the sooner the animals were
destroyed, the quicker you stopped the production of the virus."

 ENDS



From Richard North:


FMD - UPDATE 21
Richard North (Dr)
Research Director EDD (European Parliament)
10 August 2001

A tale of two inquiries
It is clear that the overall response of the 'clever-dick' media to Margaret
Beckett's announcement of her 'inquiry process' is to attack the appointment
of Don Curry, formerly MLC Commissioner, mainly for his part in the BSE
debacle. Whether it was a deliberate ploy or not, his appointment as chair
on one of the trio of official government inquiries has diverted some
attention from the other two, much more important efforts, headed
respectively by Dr Iain Anderson and Sir Brian Follett.

Anderson's task is 'the administrative inquiry into the handling of the 2001
foot and mouth outbreak inquiry', identifying 'the lessons to be learned
from the Foot and Mouth disease outbreak of 2001 and the way the Government
should handle any future major animal disease outbreak'. Follett, on the
other hand, must 'review scientific questions relating to the transmission,
prevention and control of epidemic outbreaks of infectious disease in
livestock in Great Britain', and make recommendations by Summer 2002.

The main point to take on board is that the split of responsibilities is odd
to the point of being perverse. It is hard to see how Anderson can make
recommendations for the way in which government should handle future
outbreaks without being aware of the findings of the scientific review
while, on the other hand, management, etc. of 'outbreaks, is not solely a
scientific question - the choices made are determined politically. In other
words, Beckett - with Blair clearly behind her - has split what should be
inseparable. Divided, neither committee can come to clear conclusions.

Iain Anderson
From the background on the principle player, Iain Anderson, however, it is
clear that Blair does not want clear conclusions - since they could hardly
fail to involve criticism of his administration. Although a high profile
businessman - listing amongst his portfolio, a non-executive directorships
of BT and Scottish & Newcastle, and chairmanships of BT Scotland and the
hi-tech company Intense Photonics - Anderson is an intensely political
animal.

Immediately before the 1997 general election which brought Blair to power,
he worked on a project for the Labour Party called 'Information and
Communication Technology (ICT) in UK Schools' project, with the brief to
advise Tony Blair and David Blunkett on 'the key priorities and directions
the next Government should take in developing the use of ICT in primary and
secondary schools'. The use of IT in schools was to become a core policy
initiative of Blair and cannot be unconnected with a deal made between Sir
Iain Vallance (Chairman of BT) and Blair, that BT would be cleared from a
Government ban on delivering TV through the phone network, in return for
linking up schools and hospitals to the internet.

Anderson then became Tony Blair's Special Adviser on Milliennium Compliance
and was listed as an unpaid 'special advisor' on the staff of 10 Downing
Street. He was duly rewarded with a CBE in the 2000 birthday honours list.
He now remains a 'safe pair of hands' who can be relied upon not to dredge
up anything which could be embarrassing to the 'project'.

Sir Brian Follett FRS
As to the second 'player' Sir Brian Follett, he was Vice-Chancellor,
University of Warwick, Chair, Arts and Humanities Research Board, Professor
of Zoology and Head of Biological Sciences, University of Bristol,
1978-1993. He was elected fellow to the Royal Society in 1987. He is a board
member of the Natural History Museum under its Chairman Professor Sir Robert
May FRS, who was appointed President of Britain's Royal Society, one of the
most esteemed positions in the world of science, in 2000.

The crucial thing to appreciate about the scientific inquiry which Follett
will chair is that it is not 'his', in the way of the Northumberland
inquiry. This is a Royal Society inquiry, prop. Robert May. And since the
Society includes amongst its Fellows Professor Roy Anderson, Professor David
King and Sir John Krebs, all of whom played controversial roles in the FMD
debacle, it is hard to see how it can be considered 'objective'.

In fact, the Royal Society has a history of a certain partiality when the
interests of its members are threatened, as in the curious affair of Dr.
Arpad Pusztai and his revelation that the GM potatoes tested in his
laboratory might not be safe. Many Royal Society Fellows have financial and
professional interests in promoting GM and the Royal Society set up a hasty
review of Pusztai's experimental results, without giving Pusztai the
opportunity to assemble the complete set of data, published a report
declaring Pusztai's findings flawed, and warned that no conclusions should
be drawn.

The report stressed the importance of peer-review before the results were
released to the public, despite the fact that at least part of the research
in question had, by then, been published in The Lancet. The Editor of The
Lancet referred to the Royal Society's review as 'a gesture of breathtaking
impertinence to the Rowett Institute scientists'.

Not content with this, the Royal Society then drew up a 'Guidance for
editors' to 'assist' scientists and editors in writing scientific stories.
'Newspapers', this guidance stated, 'may suppose that they have produced
"balanced" reports by quoting opposing views'. Not so, according to the
Royal Society, if 'the opposing view is held by only a quixotic minority'.
Journalists were told to identify, wherever possible, a majority view. That
should be the one they should present. Never mind the message - control the
messenger.

Smoke and mirrors
Fortunately, most of the mainstream media - BBC apart - have seen through
some of the smokescreen, although Beckett and Morley are doing their best to
make the label 'independent' stick. Of course, neither inquiry is at all
independent and we are now to witness the ultimate in arrogance of an
administration which has the power and intends to use it. Nature will out,
though. FMD marches on. Since Anderson has been instructed not to start work
formally until the epidemic is over, we could be in for a very long wait
before his report is ready.

ENDS


Our comment:   Thanks for that, Richard, our only relief came when we
realised that the Anderson chairing one of the three inquiries was not THE
Professor Anderson  (it's not his brother, is it?).  So it could be worse,
but as Richard shows here, not much worse.

#                                              #
#





Here's something a little different from Bryn:


I thought you would like to know where some animal welfare groups spend
their/your money.
PAL is one of them who suck up to Blair.  That's why they have been missing
from the farmgate, whilst others try to stop the illegal slaughter of
healthy animals.

Best wishes,
Bryn


It has emerged that an influential anti-hunting lobby group donated almost
#50,000 to the Labour Party during the general election - only weeks before
Tony Blair announced he would proceed with a vote to ban hunting.

Records recently published show that Labour accepted two donations from the
Political Animal Lobby (PAL), a secretive animal welfare organisation which
was formerly linked to the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). The
first, for #30,000, was made in April, as Labour's manifesto was being drawn
up, and the second, of #17,582, in June.

PAL is headed by the veteran animal rights activist Brian Davies, who
founded IFAW.
IFAW is not a charity, nor does it have a membership. It is a highly
successful profit-making animal rights organisation.

In 1996 IFAW loaned #600,000 to PAL whose principal purpose is to donate
money to political parties. Within weeks PAL donated #1million to the Labour
Party for its election funds, a gesture followed by a 'commitment' by the
Prime Minister to ban hunting.
In Britain, PAL employs Angela Beveridge, sister of Tony Banks M.P. who is
well-known for his vehemently anti-hunting stance.  Furthermore, his wife
Sally, was on the Board of Directors of one of IFAW's sister organisations.

DEFRA Minister, Elliot Morley M.P. even had a researcher, Jane Springfoot,
paid for by PAL in 1993 and 1994.

Read the full article in The Independent :
http://www.countryside-alliance.org/a/0809b.htm

ENDS


All for now

from Alan & Rosie