-----Original Message-----
From: alan & rosie beat [mailto:alan.rosie@lineone.net]
Sent: 03 August 2001 20:56
To: CullMaff
Subject: Friday flippancy

Lawrence Wright has been working to establish the legal basis and procedures
for the widespread serological testing that is now under way in many parts
of the country as part of the government's "exit strategy".  You might think
the subject matter a little dry - but you'd be mistaken, this is classic
comedy in parts!  Here we copy his recent correspondence with Ben Bennett:

In a message dated 28/07/01 12:22:45 GMT Daylight Time,
M.J.Bennett@vfs.defra.gsi.gov.uk writes:

<< Subj:     Re: Foot and mouth disease: serological surveillance
 Date:  28/07/01 12:22:45 GMT Daylight Time
 From:  M.J.Bennett@vfs.defra.gsi.gov.uk
 To:    MCAMPSCOTT@aol.com

 Dear Mr Wright

 In response to your recent e-mail I would make the following comments using
your paragraph number as reference:

 1. I understand that Council Directive 85/211/EC and Commission Decision
2001/295/EC are the relevant EU instruments.

 2. Epidemiological groups are assessed within flocks depending upon the
potential or actual links between groups which may allow the spread of
infection between the groups. If separate management and location of the
groups and good standards of biosecurity can be demonstrated  then they may
be considered to be separate management groups and treated as such in
epidemiological terms. Obviously if the sheep are run as one group there
only be one epidemiological group.

 For positive blood samples only the degree of separation may mean that only
one group of sheep would be slaughtered but this of course would need to be
assessed on a case by case basis.

 Where Probang positives occur the premises is defined as an Infected
Premises and all susceptible stock on it would be slaughtered. In such
circumstances, the relationship of other groups of sheep (on other premises)
to the IP sheep would also be considered and it may be decided that the
groups should be slaughtered as Dangerous Contacts depending upon the degree
of contact between the groups.

 3. Labelling of blood tubes is done in the same way as for brucellosis
sampling in that adhesive labels bearing unique numbers are attached to be
tubes. These numbers are entered on the pro forma which also has the
name and address detail.

 4. I have no indication to date that there has been any incorrect
identification of flocks of origin when positive results have been received.
I am afraid that the disease in sheep can be very short lived or even
symptomless and therefore your example of a carefully tended pet flock in
excellent health is not necessarily relevant.

 5. Guidance for the blood samplers is given verbally during their training
course and is reinforced thereafter through briefings. Whilst I cannot
you with a copy of written guidance, if there are any concerns that DEFRA
staff are not adopting strict biosecurity measures on farms I would wish to

 Yours sincerely

 M J Bennett

 DVM Exeter

Dear Mr Bennett,

Thank you for your e-mail of 28/7/01.

I am puzzled about the legal basis for the serological surveillance.
85/211/EEC seems to be a Council Decision of 26 March 1985 concerning the
conclusion of an exchange of letters extending the arrangement relating to
clause 2 of the Agreement between the European Economic Community and the
Socialist Republic of Romania on trade in sheepmeat and goatmeat.

Commission Decision 2001/295/EC deals with measures necessary to be carried
out before the restrictions applied in protection and surveillance zones are
released: but it specifically excludes Great Britain from its scope.  For
example, item (6) states "The measures provided for in this Decision shall
not apply to Great Britain..." and Article 1 makes it clear that it does not
apply to the UK other than Northern Ireland.

I should be grateful for clarification.

I am glad to hear that the sample tubes are given unique numbers, referenced
to the holding of origin and that the blood samplers are given careful
training.  If, however, there is no written checklist of essential
requirements and the checklist is not provided to the animal keeper, I fear
that procedures will not always be followed - and simple farmers like us are
not qualified to know what should be done, what is essentially important and
what we should and can insist on.  Mistakes will happen and omissions made.
In normal circumstances we can muddle through and it is not necessary to be
so punctilious; but the consequence of a mistake in the present context can
be irrevocable.

In view of this I find unsatisfactory your unwillingness to entertain any
form of review before proceeding to the slaughter of livestock.  And the
confusion over the legal basis of the exercise is additionally disturbing.

Yours sincerely

Lawrence Wright

In a message dated 31/07/01 10:18:46 GMT Daylight Time,
M.J.Bennett@vfs.defra.gsi.gov.uk writes:

 Dear Mr Wright

 My apologies for giving you the wrong information. The directive is in fact
85/511/EC. I can only blame a slip of the keyboard!

 As for Commission Decision 2001/295/EC, I am informed that we are basing
activities on its requirements as this is the EU standard for demonstrating
that all appropriate measures have been taken to identify and deal with any
"hidden" disease in the country. Measures taken under this established
protocol will be necessary to satisfy the EU and ourselves that we have
all the steps required to demonstrate freedom from FMD and hence regain our
former status.

 Yours sincerely

 M J Bennett

Dear Mr Bennett,

You originally told me that the serological surveillance is being carried
as a requirement of an EU Directive (85/511/EEC and Commission Decision
2001/295/EC) to enable lifting of restrictions on farms in the protection
zones, the zones of 3km radius, around infected premises

DEFRA Information Sheet 14, 27 July 2001 states (p4): "The testing is
required by EU regulations (Council Directive 85/211/EEC and Commission
Decision 2001/295/EC).  It is to see if antibodies to Foot and Mouth Disease
are present in the blood of sheep and goats which may not have shown signs

You now tell me that the serological surveillance is not in fact required by
these instruments, but that you are basing your activities on the
requirements of Decision 2001/295/EC.  I object to the misleading advice,
given to me and to the recipients of  DEFRA Information Sheet 14.  Please
would you correct the Information Sheet and explain what enables your
in the serological surveillance, what instrument defines the requirement and
requires the procedure you are following?

I have now read Directive 85/511/EEC and Commission Decision 2001/295/EC.

The former lays down requirements for the diagnosis of FMD, the control of
movements of animals on a holding where FMD is suspected or diagnosed, the
killing of infected animals and the control of movements of animals in
protection and surveillance zones.  I note that it does not require the
killing of susceptible animals on the infected holding, if they are in a
separate from those infected. [Article 6 (1)].  I note also that Article 9.
(b) merely requires that "the measures in the surveillance zone shall be
in force for at least 30 days after the elimination of all the animals
referred to in Article 5 from the holding and the carrying out on that
holding of preliminary cleaning and disinfection operations in accordance
with Article 10."  The measures being applied here are well in excess of
these requirements.

The latter describes the measures to be carried out prior to the lifting of
the protection zones and surveillance zones defined in the former document,
in countries other than the UK.  In the protection zones (3 km), at least 15
days after the killing of the infected animals and after the completion of
preliminary disinfection and cleaning, it requires clinical examination of
all animals of susceptible species for signs and symptoms of FMD; and in
circumstances, serological sampling of some of the animals (at least 21 days
after the killing of infected animals and completion of preliminary
disinfection and cleaning).  In the surveillance zones, at least 30 days
after the killing of the infected animals and after the completion of
preliminary disinfection and cleaning, it requires clinical examination of
all animals of susceptible species for signs and symptoms of FMD, and in
circumstances serological sampling to be carried out.  Its specific
requirements for serological sampling exclude holdings where sheep or goats
have been in contact with bovine animals within 21 days.

Your activities do not follow these requirements.

I should be grateful for your advice.

Yours sincerely,

Lawrence Wright


Our comment:   Don't you just love those EC directives?   We look forward to
further instalments from this "simple farmer" . . . . .

#                                               #

Jane Barribal of the Farmtalking website has produced a wide-ranging and
informative article on FMD and blood testing.  This is attached to our
message today as a Word document (virus checked).

#                                               #

Yet more on blood testing science  -  yes I know we keep on about it, but if
you happen to be a Welsh sheep, or the owner of some, it's kind of important
right now.  This contribution comes from Andrew (vet. scientist, not the
Pirbright Andrew):

IMO they do not and cannot know whether active infection is present in
Brecon sheep based on the testing protocol/regime they are using - claims
that there is active infection are pure speculative extrapolations from
antibody data, unless and until they get results from tests - which he (AK)
says they are running on a few samples from suspicious lesions - that are
designed to 'look for' virus.

 From a simple disease control standpoint -ie. ignoring the
questions/issues about FMD-free status - there is NO point in culling
animals that are seropositive (have positive results  to ELISA test being
used) because this test looks for late produced antibody (IgG) - produced
2-3 weeks following infection by which time these animals have either
completely cleared virus from their bodies or have become presistently
infected (ie. they are 'carriers') and as we know persistently infected
sheep (aka 'carriers') do not pose any significant risk of continuing
spread of virus/infection.

The signs are that the Govt is once again seriously considering vaccination
- but NOT it appears in sheep.


Richard North sent in this contribution to the debate:


I was discussing the IgG/IgM point with a colleague this morning.  Much of
the confusion as to when the epidemic started could have been resolved by
ascertaining sequential IgG/IgM ratios of apparently healthy sheep in flocks
identified as infected, early on in the epidemic.  From this, some good
indication could have been gained as to whether the vets were picking up
newly infected flocks or discovering well-established oinfection.  Some idea
could also have been gained as to how many times the infection had cycled
through the flock.

Alongside - although a tad more difficult - DNA analysis could have been
carried out (PFGE) to see if the virus had mutated through each cycle, in
which case the respective profiles could then be used to help identify the
nature and degree of cycling through outher flocks.

This is not an academic question, or idle curiosity.  In the ealry days, the
decisions made as to the age of the epidemic should have guided the control
model used.  Clearly, if the epidemic had been well-established by the time
it had been discovered (as I beleive to have been the case) then the
'contain, slash and burn' model would have been less valid and wholesale
vaccination would have been indicated.

It is interesting in this context how easy the 'authorities' and their
supporters claim to have relied on the best science whereas, when you look
it in detail, it turns out to be cowboy operation.


And he added a further message later on:


This is an extract from my forthcoming book.  It addresses Andrew's point.



Quite why MAFF displays such an uncanny ability to get things wrong, and
to continue reinforcing failure, lies within the realms of psychology.  In a
study of military incompetence, seeking to understand the reasons why there
have been so many spectacular disasters, Norman Dixon, an eminent
psychologist, explored the phenomenon of 'cognitive dissonance'.

The term describes a mental state that arises when a person possesses
knowledge or beliefs which conflict with a decision he has made.  In the
context of MAFF and the management of the response to foot and mouth
senior officials in the organisation were confronted with the inherent
conflict brought about by knowledge that the adopted strategy could not
and was not working, and their decision to persist with that strategy.

Research indicates that cognitive dissonance has a particularly powerful
effect on behaviour when there are strong pressures to justify initial
decisions.  The less justified those decisions, the greater will be the
dissonance.  Furthermore, the inability to admit error increases with the
degree of seriousness of the error made: the more serious the error, the
bizarre will be attempts to justify the unjustifiable.  Thus, given the
overweening arrogance of MAFF and its belief that it is always right, it was
inevitable that, when its initial slaughter policy showed signs of
catastrophic failure, it would resort to further killing.

That its actions were destroying the very fabric of the rural economy was of
little importance, compared with its overpowering need to prove itself
 While a rapid, early vaccination programme could have ended the misery
within thirty days of the first reported outbreak, not only could MAFF's
corporate brain not cope with such a drastic shift in policy, a change of
tack would have amounted to an admission of error.  This was not an option.
Thus, the killing intensified and the 'cure' became worse than the disease.
Public policy, once again, descended into mindless barbarity.


Michaela adds these comments:

Re the Ab state of animals being tested in the Breacon Beacons.  I have just
been talking to Dr Bertie Ellis, ( who phoned to tell me that I am to be
tested tomorrow), who freely admits to knowing next to nothing about DEFRA's
antics, in fact he maintains they do not know what they are doing either.  I
am afraid it is a case of policy determined at beginning of outbreak, pursue
it to the very end.
However he did say and it has also been confirmed by Pirbright and a third
source that in one of the 5 pens that sheep were held, there was active
signs of FMD.  The concern is to determine whether these sheep have Ab as a
consequence of exposure in the spring, the Crickhowell outbreak or whether
(depending upon penetrance into the Beacons),  in autumn 2000?!
I am currently talking to a SA virologist at Ondersterpoort Research Station
to try to establish if they have any in vitro, current/recent (not
historical or anecdotal) evidence of carriers infecting susceptible animals.

Disturbingly, I have also been told that the graziers are being offered even
more money than has been publicly acknowledged.  The going rate for a
breeding ewe was #90, they were offered #!20 and now #180 is the starting
negotional  amount!!!  It is said they they are being asked to sign OSA and
keep stum.


Meanwhile, Alan has persisted in his correspondence with Pirbright
Laboratory as follows:

Hello Andrew,

"Generally, a sheep that has developed high antibody levels would be
to have already cleared the virus from its bloodstream, and so there is not
a lot of point in looking there. That leaves the possibility of taking
tissue biopsies. When vets taking blood samples spot evidence of active F&M
disease they send us samples of diseased skin labelled for VIRUS DIAGNOSIS.
I can confirm that such virus testing IS going on here with Brecon sheep."

We seem to be at cross purposes here.  My point is that checking blood
samples for live virus (not antibodies) would determine if any active
disease was still present in these sheep.  If no live virus was found in any
of the blood samples taken, only antibodies, wouldn't that show that disease
was no longer active within the flock?  Then, and only then, would the issue
of carriers become relevant.

I notice that the DEFRA website has listed various parts of the Beacons as
Infected Premises, so does this mean that the virus diagnosis testing you
mentioned here has indeed proved the existence of active disease?  The many
press reports and statements that I have seen so far have not actually said
clearly that either clinical signs or virus testing has provided the
evidence needed to declare an Infected Premises.  DEFRA don't seem to be any
better at providing full information than MAFF.

"Regarding Fred's second
point, he is correct to say that virus is usually neutralised in the blood
(where the IgG is), but virus shed from the mouth and respiratory tract IS
certainly infectious."

Some time ago I had read of antibodies being contained within saliva that
neutralised any low level virus from the throat of carrier animals.  I asked
an animal scientist friend to comment, she said: "So, checked out the saliva
and antibody story.  Very simple and under my nose all the time: Roit
Mastoff and Male, (1996), Immunology 4th Ed., Times Mirror International
Publishers Spain,
All I had to do was consult the book. ( Its sad but true that what you don't
use , you lose!)
 IgA is detected in seramucous secretions i.e. saliva, milk,
tracheobronchial  and genitourinary secretions.  IgA becomes focused at
mucosal surfaces where it prevents reinfection."

I pressed her to confirm that this was the mechanism I had read about: "IgA
is the antibody that is predominantly found in mucous type secretions as
stated and yes it will tend to 'bind'/'lock/ neutralise virus in the nose,
mouth and throat.  IgA will be present later than IgG or IgM, both of which
circulate in the bloodstream."

This seems to confirm Fred's opinion and he has repeatedly stated that no
experiment has been able to demonstrate infectivity from carriers.  Your
statement contradicts this forcefully, so presumably you have good
evidence - can you please outline it for me?

Thanks as always for your continued interest!

Best wishes


And the reply:

Dear Alan

"  If no live virus was found in any
of the blood samples taken, only antibodies, wouldn't that show that disease
was no longer active within the flock?"

No! I'm pretty sure that's not correct. It is true that, as the antibody
level goes up, the virus titre in the blood goes down, but there is bound to
be a period of time during which the virus is all mopped up by antibodies in
the blood while it is still being shed from skin lesions. That is why skin
samples are being taken from sheep showing suspicious clinical symptoms. In
addition, as I said before, if the antibody level is NOT very high, there
may well be virus in the blood. Indeed, in the present circumstances a LOW
(but significant!) antibody level is being looked upon as a suspicious sign
that the animal MIGHT be acutely infected.

"I notice that the DEFRA website has listed various parts of the Beacons as
Infected Premises, so does this mean that the virus diagnosis testing you
mentioned here has indeed proved the existence of active disease?"

Yesterday's daily bulletin on our notice board said that Powys had had two
cases the previous day (a "case" being an infected premises, which could be
a big patch of the Brecons) and Alex Donaldson confirmed to me that acute
disease has been confirmed in the Brecon sheep. Therefore, I assume that the
answer to your question is "yes". I can't state that as a categorical fact,
because that is precisely what I know. I am also reluctant to get drawn into
providing specific information of that kind, because staff here are not
supposed to act as a private grapevine for media-sensitive information,
especially information that DEFRA is paying for. I appreciate, however, that
the question is important to you, and that you are entitled to an answer.
I'll see what I can do.

"This seems to confirm Fred's opinion and he has repeatedly stated that no
experiment has been able to demonstrate infectivity from carriers.  Your
statement contradicts this forcefully, so presumably you have good
evidence - can you please outline it for me?"

I wondered if you'd come back to me with IgA. By the time this is over
you'll be able to sit for a microbiology degree. I nearly mentioned IgA
myself yesterday, but, believe it or not, I do try to keep my emails as
straightforward as possible. I was surprised by Fred Brown's claim because
he and I know perfectly well that the routine test for carriers is to draw a
probang up the throat and test for live virus in the scrapings by seeing if
it infects a particularly sensitive kind of cultured cell. That's how they
do it - IgA or no IgA! - and it works without needing to detach the virus
from anything. I double-checked that information before I replied to you
yesterday. It is true that there is neutralising IgA in the animal's
secretions, and it is also known that its level is correlated with the
amount of virus being shed (i.e. it is likely that the persistent virus
continually stimulates the production of neutralising IgA). All I can say is
that there is evidently not enough IgA to neutralise all of the virus.

It is true that no-one has shown that a carrier sheep can naturally infect a
susceptible one (in that sense Fred is correct; I am wondering now if he was
slightly mis-quoted). That makes the risk low, but one can't on that basis
claim that the probability of it happening is one in a million. There are
likely to be a lot of carriers out there and they would be mixing with
susceptibles, and shedding virus, for months on end. There is no way that
the magnitude of that risk can be tested experimentally in our limited
facilities. Admittedly DEFRA don't need to deal with possible carriers with
quite the same urgency as acutely infected animals, but I can imagine that
they would still feel it necessary to eliminate the danger as soon as




Our comment:   Our feeling is that Andrew has probably gone as far as he can
for an employee of a government-funded facility!  He has been remarkably
open and honest in these exchanges and we are all indebted to him for the
wealth of information that he has provided.

Just to place the risk of carrier animals into context, here is what David
King, Chief Scientific Officer, said back in April:

"The rate of infection of other animals from an animal which is carrying it
in this way is very, very low indeed. There are one or two reported cases
around the world and there's been a very long history of foot and mouth
disease - one or two cases only where disease has been shown to have been
spread from such carriers."

Fred Brown, of course, has said that he knows of only one recorded instance
worldwide, and that in water buffalo.

In our view, it seems that on the best scientific evidence available (a
favourite government phrase) the risk of infection spreading from carrier
animals to other uninfected animals is not small, not very small, not even
"very, very low indeed", but is effectively zero in the real world.  The
risk of an aircraft crash or nuclear accident is higher by several orders of
magnitude than just one, or possibly two, known events world-wide, and we
can think of no genuine risk-assessment process that would justify the
large-scale slaughter of livestock on the grounds of such a
vanishingly-small possibility.

Once again, we are forced to the only possible conclusion - that science is
here being mis-used for political ends.

#                                              #

From the Warmwell website:

'Vaccinate - or you face doomsday'
Yorkshire Post
...LIVESTOCK farmers were warned yesterday that a possible "doomsday"
scenario awaits them unless the National Farmers Union agrees to relax its
objections to vaccinating against foot-and-mouth disease. Independent food
consultant Prof Verner Wheelock said unless vaccinations were introduced,
then the disease could last well into next year, devastating many more farm
businesses and harming the entire British economy. NFU president Ben Gill,
who farms near Easingwold, will receive a letter today from a consortium of
individuals, headed by Prof Wheelock, pleading with the organisation to
rethink its negative stance. The group also includes the owner of the
Broughton Hall Business Park, near Skipton, Roger Tempest, a Yorkshire Dales
farmer, Simon Foster, of Airton, near Skipton, who has seen his livestock
slaughtered because of the disease, and Berkshire cattle dealer Peter
Harvey.( See letter from Prof Wheelock)"They are averaging about four a day
and this is despite the good weather which is supposed to kill the virus,
the increased efficiency of the culling operation and despite biosecurity
being stepped up. So this actually means things are getting worse. "If the
disease is not under control by November then it is hard to see the battle
having been won by this time next year. A vaccination policy is now
essential in combination with killing infected animals." He added that it
was absolutely unbelievable the Government had relied on advice from
scientists who were not experts in foot-and-mouth and had totally ignored
the advice and opinions of leading world experts in this field. Aug 2

From The Times:


Farm ministry ready to order vaccination


THE Government is so concerned about the spread of foot-and-mouth disease in
North Yorkshire that ministers have approved a contingency plan for a
"firebreak" vaccination screen.
Five months after the outbreak began, with the spread of the virus around
Thirsk and Whitby threatening the pig industry of East Yorkshire, ministers
have been forced to accept that the controversial approach may well be
needed. Ben Gill, the president of the National Farmers' Union, which has
been strongly opposed to vaccination, has accepted that if slaughter failed
it might be necessary.

The recommendation to go ahead with vaccination will depend on advice from
Jim Scudamore, the Government's Chief Veterinary Officer. It is clear,
however, that ministers have already been told that if the cases persist in
the North Yorkshire area and if they move closer to the main pig production
area in the East Riding, vaccination will be imposed.

Any new case near York or Malton would signal a change of policy to ensure
that the virus does not reach the 3 million pigs reared in the eastern area.
About one third of the country's pig production takes place in Yorkshire and
adjoining Lincolnshire.

Vaccination would both protect the industry and ensure that the disease did
not spread widely among pigs, which propagate the disease far more quickly
than do sheep or cattle.

The Government is expected to receive provisional EU approval for
vaccination of pigs this month; permission for use in cattle was given in

Mr Scudamore and ministers are hoping that in the meantime the new licensing
and movement controls in the hotspot area will eliminate the disease. If
these controls do not work a firebreak programme to vaccinate cattle and
pigs in a ring zone is inevitable.

The vaccination of sheep has, however, been ruled out. Senior vets do not
believe it would be cost-effective. It is not clear whether sheep within a
firebreak zone would be slaughtered or blood tested.

Ministers have also been told that vaccination will also be likely if the
massive serological testing programme of sheep now under way in hot spot
areas reveals a massive residue of infection. Mr Scudamore and farmers'
leaders believe that the disease is not endemic but they cannot be confident
until the test results are known.

A change of weather with heavy rainfall and cold spells could also trigger
use of vaccination, as it would aid the spread of the virus.

Any animals which were innoculated would be eventually slaughtered, under
current plans. A "vaccinate to live" policy for animals is favoured by
ministers but food processing companies and supermarkets have told ministers
that they do not believe consumers will buy the meat from vaccinated

Farmers' leaders would expect some indemnity from the Government if
vaccination went ahead without a requirement for future slaughter to ensure
that markets for their products were not lost.

Some ministers believe, however, that if vaccination is necessary later in
the autumn, once Parliament has returned, emergency powers could be used to
compel companies to put the vaccinated animals into the human food chain.

One senior government source said: "If the critical point is later in the
autumn it may be possible to bring in a new law." The Dutch originally
planned to "vaccinate to live", but consumer resistance forced a change in

Mr Scudamore is working on a review of the use of vaccination in each of the
hotspot areas: Thirsk, Whitby, Penrith, the Settle-Clitheroe cluster, and

The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has set up an
implementation programme for vaccination in each area that could be
operational within two to three days of a decision to vaccination. Centres
for distribution of vaccine and staff to administer it have been identified.

Ian Gardiner, deputy general secretary of the NFU, confirmed last night that
high-level discussions were taking place about the use of vaccination. He
said that Mr Gill had always known that there were circumstances when
vaccination would be required.

There were seven new cases yesterday; five in Cumbria and two in North
Yorkshire, bringing the nationwide total of cases of foot-and-mouth to

Also from The Times:


Police struggle to patrol blue zone


A SHORTAGE of resources is jeopardising the security of the foot-and-mouth
bio-security zone in North Yorkshire only days after its enforcement.
Elliot Morley, the Agriculture Minister, said the scheme was still largely
reliant on self-regulation because the authorities were struggling to pull
together sufficient resources to police the 800-square-mile area. There is a
maximum of one police car for every 100 square miles, so checking the trail
of farm lorries at the heart of the blue zone between Thirsk and York was
almost impossible yesterday.

Although the new regulations demand that all farm vehicles be thoroughly
cleaned as well as disinfected, only one dairy within the zone has its own
high-tech spray. Most have had to continue to use handheld sprays, which Mr
Morley agreed were "about as useful as vinegar to ward off the plague".

Many of the farmers using the trading facilities of Murton livestock market
near York yesterday did not even know whether their farm was within the
zone; many letters explaining the new regulations have not arrived.

So far just one farmer is to be prosecuted after he was allegedly found
transporting live sheep to be slaughtered without permission.

And yet more from The Times:


Whitty has blunt message for sheep farmers


SHEEP farmers are to be given a blunt message today that upland over-grazing
is no longer acceptable.
Lord Whitty, the Farms Minister, is to insist that farmers must reduce the
size of their flocks and spend more time looking after the landscape. He
will also make clear that the Government has no intention of keeping up the
level of subsidies paid to farmers for production alone.

He is expected to be given a rough ride by farmers at Warwick University
when he addresses an emergency conference for the sheep industry organised
by the National Farmers' Union.

Lord Whitty was in no mood last night for compromise. "I am expecting frank
exchanges on both sides," he said.

He added that the Government was hoping to introduce a sheep quota-buying
scheme next year which would depend on farmers agreeing not to produce any
lamb for the subsequent 12-month period.

At present, farmers are given a set quota of sheep to produce in return for
a subsidy under the common agricultural policy (CAP). The plan is for
ministers to buy up a significant number of quotas to prevent the
over-production of lamb.

Lord Whitty said that that would allow more time for ministers, farmers'
leaders and the European Union to agree a strategy for farming within reform
of the CAP.

He continued: "I intend to reassure farmers that we have not got any hidden
plan and there is no plan to abolish the sheep industry. We are not in the
business of the demolition of the countryside and we are all rather tired of
these rural myths and anecdotes."

His vision is for farmers to produce higher-quality lamb which gets them a
better price in the market. The Government wants farmers to work in
co-operatives and offer speciality regional products to supermarkets and
other retail outlets.

The National Trust in Cumbria, for example, is working on a new marketing
strategy to promote Herdwick lamb.

Ministers, however, are sympathetic to the plight of sheep farmers left with
a glut of 1.5 million light mountain lambs which have no market in this
country. The animals are usually exported to Italy, Spain, France and

As The Times disclosed last week, the Government is prepared to pay up to
#10 million for the slaughter of these healthy animals. Farmers would
receive #10 a lamb under the deal.

Ben Gill, president of the NFU, said last night he hoped that the conference
would "pull everyone together in one room" to help to improve the future for
farmers. He said: "For every farmer who has lost animals because of
foot-and-mouth it has been an unspeakable nightmare. But there are many
"forgotten victims" whose animals have not been slaughtered who are in an
even worse situation."

The British lamb industry is worth more than #1 billion and is the world's
fourth largest producer. The national flock is about 27 million during the
winter and rises to nearly 40 million animals after lambing. Latest NFU
figures state that 3.9 million sheep have been slaughtered during the


Our comment:  What this article fails to mention, as usual, is that the UK
production of lamb is identical to UK consumption of lamb, so that we are
just self-sufficient.  But for reasons that escape us, one third of
production is exported to Europe, while the shortfall this creates on the
home market is filled by New Zealand imports.  Can someone please tell us,
what is the problem?

From the Warmwell website:

Meanwhile, as thousands more sheep were brought down from the Brecon Beacons
for blood tests, the Farmers' Union of Wales warned that moving the flocks
to testing areas could be contributing to the spread of the disease. The
union's deputy president, Glyn Powell, said: "What is happening at the
moment is you are moving outwards and you may very well be pushing the
disease as you interfere with the flocks on the hill. "I believe we should
have worked from an outer ring and moved inwards like on a dartboard." More
than 5,000 sheep have already been culled on the Brecon Beacons. Farmers are
awaiting results from tests on a further 1,200 and another 4,000 are being
brought down from the mountains for testing on Friday.
The other main Welsh farming union, the National Farmers' Union (Wales),
which has so far supported the Beacons cull, last night pressed for some
sheep to be saved. The union wants healthy animals to be put into quarantine
and later used to restock the hills.

However, a Welsh assembly spokeswoman said all precautions were being taken
to stop the further spread of the disease. (warmwell comment: if you kill
all the sheep no more sheep will get it, it's true)

She dismissed the NFU's call as impractical, as sheep can harbour the
disease for many weeks and would therefore have to be quarantined for a
lengthy period. (warmwell comment: the implication being that it is far
better to kill the lot which is easy and practical than to keep and
quarantine some of these ancient Welsh sheep to restock later on...much
better to plant spruce perhaps? The far more civilised and practical plan of
vaccination looks like being shelved until the hills are ethnically cleansed
of the traditional sheep blood-lines) Aug 2

From the Reuters website:

Foot-and-mouth to be long-time woe for Argentina

Updated: Tue, Jun 26 2:35 PM EDT
By Juan Jose Lagorio
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (Reuters) - Argentina will not be able to eliminate
foot-and-mouth disease until the end of 2002 or the beginning of 2003,
though the number of outbreaks should begin to decline between July and
September, Argentina's agriculture secretary said Tuesday.

The latest outbreak of the highly contagious virus, which the government
officially recognized in March, was the first in nearly seven years and came
less than a year after the country won the prized status of "free of
foot-and-mouth without vaccination".

The government in April began a campaign to vaccinate 98 percent of the
nearly 50-million strong cattle herd in a bid to stamp out the virus.

Even if the outbreaks are brought under control, the virus will not
technically be completely eliminated in the country because it is present in
the vaccines.

"I expect that by the end of next year, there will be no foot-and-mouth
outbreaks. That would come about through the revaccination of the herd,"
said Agriculture Secretary Marcelo Regunaga.

"But, it's very complicated to predict what will happen with these diseases
because the virus can mutate and it's difficult to foresee this," Regunaga

Health officials, who have found over 1,300 outbreaks, expect to complete
the first round of vaccinations by the end of June.

Regunaga said the number of outbreaks was growing exponentially, with most
concentrated in Buenos Aires province, the country's main cattle-raising

"Starting in July, we expect the number of outbreaks to begin to decrease
and that trend will be strengthened in September when the second round of
vaccination ends," Regunaga added.

Foot-and-mouth, which causes sores on the feet and mouths of cloven-hoofed
animals such as cattle and sheep and reduces milk and meat production, can
lead to millions of dollars in losses for the beef industry.

The outbreaks led to the loss of Argentina's disease-free status as well as
access to major export markets, putting in danger some $600 million in meat

The Agriculture Department decided Monday to push up the starting date for
the second round of vaccinations and increase limitations on the movement of
cattle to avoid the spread of the virus.

"The most significant risk is not being able to control the disease. The
movement of cattle could cause an eventual mutation of the virus so that two
years could pass without gaining control over it," said Regunaga.


Regunaga said Argentina should not have stopped vaccinating three years ago
and emphasized the need to work with neighboring countries affected by the
ill -- Uruguay, Paraguay, Brazil and Bolivia -- to eradicate it throughout
the region.

"Under my administration we will not stop vaccinating. I do not support
ending the vaccination campaign until the neighboring countries are
foot-and-mouth free," he explained. "Especially if they cannot control their

"It shouldn't even cross our minds to stop vaccinating until at least 2003,"
he said.

Argentina is negotiating the possible reopening of markets in the European
Union, the country's main export market for beef, and Chile, after the
countries banned Argentine meat because of a lack of clear information on
the health status of the country's cattle.

"We need to win the confidence of countries that have suspended our beef.
It's going to take a while (to reopen those markets) because we have to
rebuild the confidence that we lost," said Regunaga.

The agriculture secretary said exports of meat to Europe could begin again
in September, though the outlook for beginning exports to Canada and the
United States again in the near term is negative.

"That's a long way away. In order to enter those markets, we have to have
foot-and-mouth under control. That means there are no outbreaks," said
Regunaga. "That's not a situation we can expect to enjoy in the short term.
It's not on this year's horizon."


#                                        #

For those of you who missed Ben Kill's words of wisdom about vaccination on
Radio 4, referred to in yesterday's message, here's a link to the item so
that you can enjoy (?) it (needs Realplayer to run):


More good news for us locals, from the BBC Devon website:

The National Farmers' Union has welcomed the complete lifting of
foot-and-mouth restrictions in Devon - but has urged farmers to retain their
vigilance to ensure the virus does not return.

The NFU said that yesterday's announcement by the Department for the
Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (Defra) was a "great psychological

But, it adds, there is still a long way to go before normality returns to
the industry. The union has also advised farmers to maintain biosecurity

The lifting of measures means that the county is completely free of
restrictions for the first time since the initial outbreak, at Highampton on
February 24. Defra yesterday lifted the last remaining infected area from
the county - a 10km zone around the Knowstone area near South Molton.

Defra said that the results of blood tests on sheep and goats in the area
have been negative. The lifting of the infected area means farms that were
within it, have now had their livestock movement restrictions lifted.

The lifting of the infected area is also an important psychological boost
for farmers and the tourist industry. A Defra spokesperson described the
announcement as "very good news".

David Hill, the chairman of the NFU in Devon said there is still a long way
to go before the crisis is over.

"It is the news we have been waiting for. But there are 1000 people on farms
where animals have been culled and another 4000 who have been under
D-notices, who have suffered financially terribly under this outbreak," said
Mr Hill.

"Their problems aren't going to go away for two or three years. They will be
wondering just what help is going to come."

The last confirmed case of the disease in Devon was in mid-June.


From The Scotsman:

Finnie's #10m fails to appease farmers

Fordyce Maxwell Rural Affairs Editor

ANNOUNCING a #10 million foot-and-mouth recovery package for tourism and
farming yesterday was not enough to save Scotland's rural development
minister from his critics.

Ross Finnie came in for criticism from opposition parties for his apparent
failure to convince the European Union that Scotland should be treated as a
separate foot-and-mouth-free region which could resume exports of meat and

His defence was that Scotland could not be declared officially free of the
disease until at least 30 August - which would be 90 days after the last
case emerged, assuming that no more occur - and that the EU's standing
veterinary committee will not discuss any appeal until mid-September.

He also said that it would be "almost impossible" to meet one requirement
for lifting the export ban which was to block all imports of livestock, meat
and milk products from England. At the least that would mean police and
possibly army controls on the 26 roads which cross the Border.

He said the European commission and the EU veterinary committee had imposed
the strict conditions because they saw the outbreak in Britain as a whole as

Mr Finnie added: "We've worked very hard to get the possibility of Scottish
export resumption on to the European agenda. We are also doing everything
possible to comply with requirements, including extensive blood testing of

" But the European Commission is appalled at the severity of the disease in
the UK as a whole and it is proving extremely difficult to convince them
that we could be treated separately."

Fergus Ewing, the SNP MSP and rural development spokesman, would have none
of that. He said after Mr Finnie's press conference: "We have seen a
devastating admission that six months after the foot-and-mouth crisis began
he has made no attempt to put Scotland's case directly to the European

He said that EU law recognised that the ban can be lifted for zones which
have become disease free even if those zones are only part of member states.

Now, he claimed, it was clear that Westminster remained in charge, and went
on: "What was the point of going through the pain of a slaughter containment
policy - to eradicate the disease in Scotland - when Ross Finnie now turns
round and says that there is to be no gain."

Mr Ewing's attack followed an equally savage onslaught in a newspaper column
by former SNP leader Alex Salmond, and Mr Finnie also came under the cosh
from crofters for "lack of clear thinking, commitment and action" on
possible ways to avert the crisis facing producers in the Highland and

Mr Salmond pointed to an answer in the Commons in February this year by Nick
Brown, the then agriculture secretary, to a question from the Banff MP. In
it the minister said it may be possible to regionalise the ban "at some
future stage".

One of the pressing problems is the seasonal surplus of about 250,000 light
lambs now coming on to the market. At this time of year about 50 per cent of
Scotland's lambs are exported.


Our comment:  So this is the "prize" for which a 3 km slaughter zone was so
callously applied in Scotland?  The dangers of confusing genuine disease
control measures with political expediency are thus graphically illustrated,
as Ross Finnie struggles to reap his bloodied harvest.

From the Farmers Weekly website:

3 August 2001
Emergency plan to reopen landfills

By Wendy Owen, north-east England correspondent

FOOT-and-mouth burial sites could be reopened and new funeral pyres built to
deal with a surge in outbreaks of the disease, it has emerged.

A secret document revealing plans to dispose of millions more animals due to
foot-and-mouth and BSE was uncovered by a newspaper in north-east England.

The report suggests burial sites could be re-opened by the autumn unless
foot-and-mouth has not died down. It was discovered by the Northern Echo.

The document also describes methods for the disposal of 40 million sheep if
the British flock is found to be carrying BSE.

A spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
confirmed that the document had been drawn up for contingency purposes.

The "plans are not an epidemiological assessment, nor a prediction, they are
looking at the worst case scenario," he said.

Experts had been working for some time on the plans, which would require the
large-scale use of burial sites, the spokesman admitted.

"The Department needs to be fully prepared to ensure that any disease
flare-up does not lead to delays in slaughter and disposal," he said.

The document describes four scenarios:

If the North Yorkshire outbreak remains at about three new cases a day, most
carcasses would be rendered but existing mass burial sites might be

But if the number of cases increases to five a day, this would involve more
than 13,000 tonnes of carcasses a week and new burial sites would be opened.

Such a move could lead to public protests from local residents and MPs, the
document warns. Many people believe the burial sites are health hazard.

The most frightening scenario is the prospect of a huge outbreak in East
Yorkshire and Humberside, and an increase in foot-and-mouth elsewhere.

The document says the government would then lease private incinerators and
possibly restart burning to dispose of more than 20,000t of carcasses a


Our comment:   We just thought it would be nice to end on a cheerful note
this evening . . . . . .

from Alan & Rosie