Apologies for today's title, it's Alan's birthday!


From the Financial Times:


Foot-and-mouth proving more resilient than hoped
By John Mason and Jim Pickard
Published: July 23 2001 19:54GMT


The new measures introduced on Monday to fight foot-and-mouth disease in a
"cluster" of farms in North Yorkshire, northern England, underline just how
resilient the disease is proving to be.

The government always warned that the epidemic would prove to have a "long
tail". But ministers were hopeful that the virus could be killed off
entirely by hot weather over the summer, avoiding any possibility that the
disease could "take off" again once colder and wetter weather arrives.

However, there are growing doubts that the disease can be eradicated across
the country before the autumn.

More worrying for both ministers and farmers is the possibility that the
virus could jump from infected farms in North Yorkshire into the heart of
the pig-farming industry in the east of the country.

According to Peter Jinman, junior vice-president of the British Veterinary
Association, this could prove "catastrophic", given the ability of pigs to
replicate the virus in huge quantities and spread it on the wind.

This could force the government to change its strategy of relying on a
slaughter policy. Instead, it could be forced to begin vaccinating animals
to contain the disease, he said.

A policy of "ring-fence" vaccination over a large area with animals killed
afterwards, would probably have to be adopted, he said.

In other parts of the country, the statistics show the government still has
a large challenge ahead of it. The spread of the disease has fallen from its
peak in March and April to an average of about 3 or 4 new cases a day.

However, it has remained at this level since the beginning of June, with no
sign of falling further. The number of animals slaughtered stands at about
3.6m.

In both Cumbria and Devon, concern centres on the possibility that the virus
might be so endemic in hill-flock sheep that the areas would experience a
second wave of the disease in the autumn.

Tests in Cumbria have so far shown very little infection in these flocks, to
the relief of ministers and farmers alike. In mid-Wales, which become a
hot-spot after Cumbria and where testing of sheep began later, these fears
have yet to be allayed.

Tests have so far been carried out on 3,500 of the 10,000 sheep that graze
on the Brecon Beacons national park, and the results are expected at the
weekend.

Malcolm Thomas, director of the National Farmers Union in Wales, said: "We
are on tenterhooks because if it is on common land in Wales, those common
lands run into each other and it would be almost impossible to find ways of
controlling the disease.

"We are not only looking at other commons but also the contiguous farms to
those commons. If it is there, the logistics of the exercise become
mind-boggling."

The warning follows comments from the RSPCA that the disease could flare up
again this autumn because the 9m ewes that graze on British hillsides will
spread the disease when they return to valley pastures in September.

Footpaths on the Brecons, which had been reopened to the public, have since
been sealed off.

The length of the epidemic has been devastating for farmers, according to
the NFU. North Cumbria NFU secretary Nick Utting said: "People are getting
very depressed. It doesn't look as though we are getting to the end of the
disease, and the government are not showing a lot of interest."

Ministers had still to announce whether they would approve a compensation
scheme for the 2m lambs that might have to be slaughtered because export
markets had disappeared, he said.

Mr Jinman said farmers worst-affected were those whose animals had not been
slaughtered but were subject to movement restrictions. They had no income
because they could not sell their animals, but received no compensation.

"These are the forgotten people," he said.

The failure to compensate such farmers meant there was almost an incentive
for farms to become infected with the disease, he said.

ENDS


 From the Telegraph:


Death hangs over Crickhowell
By Richard Savill
(Filed: 24/07/2001)


IT IS more than a week since Prytherch Rees's 91 cattle were slaughtered in
a contiguous cull at his farm near the Welsh village of Crickhowell.

Yesterday however, pieces of intestine and tufts of hair littered the floor
of his concrete and steel shed and bloodstains remained on the ground.

Tony Blair's decision to order an immediate halt to the foot and mouth
clean-up operation has left Mr Rees and other farmers involved in the latest
cluster of outbreaks in the Crickhowell area unable to eradicate the "smell
of death" on their premises.

"We have been left high and dry," said Mr Rees, 46, whose animals were
culled at his 65-acre Penrysg Farm, in the picturesque hamlet of Llangenny.

"Little over a week ago the cattle were walking around the buildings and out
into the fields, looking as healthy as anyone could wish to see. All I have
got left now is tufts of hair, bits of blood and a hell of a stink. You can
smell death in the shed."

Mr Rees feared that unless the clean-up resumed, there was the risk of
further spreading the disease.

"The longer the buildings are left dirty, the more likely it is that the
rats and the birds will go in. The birds might pick up a scrap of brain and
drop it on a neighbouring farm. The disease could then be transmitted to a
clean area. This will create a lot of worry."

Farmers were in no doubt that the contractors were being highly paid for the
clean-up. However, they said they had no control over the costs because they
were the result of negotiations between outside contractors and the
Government.

Mr Rees said: "Even before the cull took place the telephone was red hot
with contractors wanting to do the clean-up. They got short shrift."

Mr Rees had arranged for two contractors to do his clean-up. He was
expecting them to start work yesterday. However, he learned of the
suspension yesterday morning.

Another local farmer, Alison Broyd, 45, who lost her stock of 100 sheep and
27 cattle at Penrhiw Farm last week, was "completely in the dark" about the
clean-up.

"It badly needs cleaning," she said. "The area where they killed them is
infected. I don't agree with Mr Blair because it is hurting farmers."

The Farmers' Union of Wales said it was "outrageous" that the "vital"
operation had been halted without any discussion.

Bob Perry, the union's president, said: "If the Prime Minister is concerned
by the cost of the operation, then he should have ordered an immediate
review while continuing with cleaning and disinfecting. It is totally
unacceptable to call a halt overnight.

"This decision will create additional tension and worry for farmers,
particularly those involved in the latest cluster of outbreaks in the
Crickhowell area."

He added: "It would be inexcusable if this virulent disease is not
eradicated from these shores now because a last-minute cost-saving measure
has allowed the virus to survive on infected farms that have not been
properly disinfected."

ENDS

Our comment:   These two articles, typical of many others appearing over the
last few days, convey some measure of the chaotic and increasingly desperate
situation in the disease-hit areas of the UK.  Scare stories and rumour are
bound to thrive when honest and transparent leadership is lacking.  It
cannot be long now before the uneasy bargain between government and NFU
leadership breaks down under the strain.

#                                                   #
#


Lawrence has sent us this copy letter re footpaths:


Edward Chorlton
County Environment Director
Lucombe House
County Hall
Topsham Road
Exeter
Devon
EX2 4QW


Dear Sir,

With regard to the re-opening of footpaths, please confirm the following:

1.  Devon County Council has powers to impose restrictions on access to land
and rights of way in Infected Areas.

2.  Our farm and the whole of the NW Devon 'open area' is currently within
the Devon Infected Area.

3.  The reason for designation of Infected Areas is that 'infection may be
present but unrecognised'.

4.  The DEFRA Veterinary Risk Assessment No. 4 (revised May 2001) picks out
the major risk factors as:

- proximity of the footpath to livestock areas, including infected premises
and premises where animals have been exposed to the risk of infection
- contact with livestock prior to arrival at footpaths
- contact with livestock while in locality of footpaths
- contact with livestock after leaving locality of footpaths
- failure to limit access for livestock to footpaths, resulting in deposits
of faeces, urine, milk , etc.


The same document also notes that - 'A high density of livestock increases
the likelihood of contact between walkers and animals, and so increases any
risk of transmission.'

5.  All these factors apply to the footpaths which run from farm to farm in
this area of NW Devon, as I have emphasised in my previous emails to you.

6.  In deciding which footpaths to open in the Infected Area of NW Devon,
you did not consult the Coastal Heritage Ranger service, nor did you conduct an
informed assessment of the risks and benefits associated with the opening of
paths.  You have certainly treated our advice, offered from our position as
farmers and participants in the tourist industry, with contempt.

7.  It is not true to say that 'DEFRA are now lifting the closures on routes
passing through farmyards within the currently open zone'.  The decision
rests with Devon County Council.  Without reference to the elected members,
you have taken it upon yourself to put farms like ours at risk.

8.  Having thus decided not to protect farms like ours you have not even
implemented your own inadequate advice with regard to the footpaths.  The
Devon County Council website instructs walkers 'Within the infected area do
not take dogs on land where there are cattle'.  The map to which this advice
is referenced appears to indicate that The NW Devon area is not within an
Infected Area.  It is.  The notices placed at the ends of footpaths which
run through fields overstocked with cattle and sheep in different ownership,
recently opened in the NW Devon part of the infected area (including the
footpath which runs through our farm) state merely that dogs should be kept
on a lead.  They thus indicate that dogs may be taken through the fields of
livestock, in contravention of your own advice.

9.  BBC Devon states tonight that

"In Devon, the County Council had already reopened more than 60% of all
public rights of way from July 14. A further 255 paths, which are currently
closed because they cross farmyards, will reopened (sic) from midnight last
night.

However, all footpaths which fall within the part of North Devon designated
as an infected area will remain closed for the time being."

Our footpaths are in this infected area.  Please confirm that they remain
closed.

We at Middle Campscott Farm note that you have ignored the points which we
made constructively, with great care, in our previous communications.  We
are very angry indeed at the careless, cavalier treatment we are receiving.  It
seems to us to amount to maladministration and we will hold you personally
responsible for any damaging consequences which ensue.

We will apply the basic precautions for visitors to farms specified by DEFRA
(ACD/FMD 1  DEFRA 22 June 2001) to all visitors to our farm, including those
who attempt to use the footpaths.

Lawrence and Karen Wright
Middle Campscott Farm
Lee
Ilfracombe
Devon EX34 8LS

#                                      #
#


Michaela wrote to the NFU hierarchy about their opposition to vaccination
and received this "standard" reply:


Thank you for your recent enquiry.  The current NFU position is detailed
below.

NFU POSITION ON VACCINATION AGAINST FOOT AND MOUTH DISEASE

The NFU has firmly supported the Government's strategy for tackling FMD;
that is the slaughter of confirmed cases within 24 hours and the slaughter
of vulnerable animals on neighbouring farms within 48 hours.  This is a
tough but correct approach.  And the clear evidence is that this strategy
is effective (see graph).  The number of confirmed cases is falling and only
last week the Government Chief Scientist was expressing optimism, albeit
cautious.  Government data show that the number of confirmed cases is in
fact below the predicted curve of the epidemic if the "24/48 hour" target
is met.

In recent days, there have been signs that some in Government favour a
shift in strategy by carrying out a limited programme of vaccination of cattle in
parts of Cumbria and Devon, alongside a continuing slaughter programme.

Over the last few days we have had intensive discussions with Governments
scientists and officials on this issue, along with vets from the British
Cattle Veterinary Association. These discussions have been friendly and
useful.  There has not been a "confrontation" between the NFU and the
Government. Both sides have sought to grapple with the very complex issues
and there has been a genuine desire on both sides to find the answers to a
lot of very important and difficult questions.

My strong impression, following these meetings, is that there remain too
many uncertainties for the Government to be able to announce a change in
strategy.  We will continue our dialogue over the coming days and weeks.
Vaccination has not been ruled out, and it is right that it should be
retained as a possible option for the future.  In the short term, however,
there are many things which farmers and the government can do together to
make the current fight against the disease more effective.

You will be aware that we have posed over 50 questions (available on NFUnet
or from Regional Offices) to them to seek to establish the short and long
term veterinary and economic implications of vaccination as well as the
merits of other biosecurity measures.  In essence, these reduce to four
fundamental questions:

1. What impact would vaccination have on the duration of the epidemic?
2. Would more or fewer animals be slaughtered if vaccination were
carried out, compared to the existing "24/48 hour" strategy alone?
3. What would be the practical, economic and commercial consequences of
vaccination for the livestock industry?
4. What additional precautionary measures and husbandry practices might
impact favourably on the epidemic?

As I have said, we have not received full or unequivocal answers to these
questions.

I must emphasise that Government scientists have not presented their
vaccination proposals as a disease control measure.  Its purpose is to free
up resources (particularly in disposal terms) and to reduce slaughter
rates, in the short term.

There is conflicting veterinary advice as to the risk that vaccinated
cattle pose as potential "carriers" of the disease and, hence, the extent
to which vaccination itself could both prolong the disease and require further
slaughtering.  Only this week, Government scientists stated that, after
vaccination, animals are unlikely to develop FMD unless already infected at
the time of vaccination.  Yet, if exposed to the virus, they warn that up
to half of the animals may carry the virus, without becoming infectious or
showing clinical symptoms of the disease.  A proportion of these animals
may become infective.

Nor have we received convincing assurances that vaccination will not have
serious adverse long-term commercial and economic consequences for the
livestock industry. Vaccination would directly affect the marketing and
trading of animals, meat, meat products and milk both within the UK, within
the EU and internationally.  Yet it remains quite unclear as to how wide
such restrictions would be and how long they would be in place.

The Government is confident - in my view without a sufficiently strong
basis- that within the UK the big food retailers will readily source and
market meat and milk from areas where vaccination has taken place.  I do
not share this confidence.  Indeed, the President of the Food and Drink
Federation has expressed serious reservations about the commercial impact
of vaccination. There is a risk that our own retailers would not source from
vaccination areas. In addition, consumer organisations have expressed
concerns, prompting our worries that consumers would avoid such products.
A two-tier food market would develop, leaving farmers in vaccinated areas
commercially blighted.

The outlook for international trade is equally uncertain.  But given that
exports of beef are very small (due to BSE), this is not our primary
concern, as many people allege.  In fact, there are more serious concerns
closer to home; for example, will other farmers be willing to buy calves,
stores or breeding animals which have been vaccinated?

In these circumstances, the NFU simply cannot take a "leap into the dark"
by agreeing to vaccination without a much clearer understanding of the outcome
and consequences of such a momentous step.  I understand that this view is
shared by the veterinary bodies.

One of the reasons the Government has given for looking at vaccination is
that there could be a temporary upturn in the number of cases as cattle are
put out to pasture.  It should be recognised that this has always been
factored in to the predictions of the progress of the disease, and there
are different views about how significant this matter is.  Nonetheless, it is a
genuine concern and one of the positive features of the recent meetings
with scientists is that we have been able to explore alternative strategies for
minimising this risk.  Surveillance, risk assessment and improved
biosecurity are all key features and I have urged the Government to issue
detailed advice on these as soon as possible.

I cannot understate the importance of following this advice, if we are to
eliminate the disease.

Some have unfairly and ignorantly accused the NFU of misleading farmers
about vaccination. We have never misled our members.  Throughout, we have
sought to establish the facts and rationale of both the existing strategy
and of alternative approaches, including vaccination.  Many other farming
organisations and vets share our deep reservations, but because of our
profile it is sometimes assumed that the NFU is speaking alone.

The NFU has not taken a doctrinaire position on vaccination.  We are open
to informed opinion, clear veterinary advice and genuine commercial assurances
about the impact of vaccination on the epidemic and the commercial
consequences for our industry.

To those who accuse the NFU of being unrepresentative of all farmers, I
acknowledge that there are differences of view amongst farmers.  But do not
assume, for example, that all organic farmers favour vaccination.  This is
far from true.  Many in the Soil Association do not share the views of the
Association's leadership, while Organic Farmers and Growers Ltd and the
Scottish Organic Producers Association is positively opposed to
vaccination. In short, vaccination is a difficult and complex issue and it is bound to
lead to differences of opinion.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, it is essential to emphasise that
the NFU has not taken the position it has on vaccination because it is
indifferent to the mass slaughter of animals.  The reverse is the case: one
of the reasons why we have been unconvinced by the argument for vaccination
is our fear that in the long run vaccination might mean more animals being
slaughtered than the under the present policy.

It is sometimes presented that vaccination means an end to slaughter. This
is not so. It must be stressed that:

* The government is only looking at vaccinating cattle (not sheep or
pigs) in Cumbria and Devon. In all areas the current slaughter and
contiguous cull policy around infected premises would continue;


* Even in the vaccinated areas, there will still be FMD cases in
cattle and, depending on the circumstances, this will mean slaughtering the
infected animal or the entire herd;


* It is by no means certain that the EU Regulation which permits
vaccination in the UK allows the vaccinated animals to live, as the
government has claimed.  The text is ambiguous.  In Holland, vaccinated
animals are being systematically slaughtered.

The point of a slaughter policy involving a contiguous cull is to save
lives. If allowed to spread, the disease would affect vast numbers of
livestock in the UK.


Ben N Gill
President


So naturally, Michaela replied as follows:



-----Original Message-----
From: Michaela Bowles <mail@equilibrate.co.uk
To: Roger Ward <Roger.Ward@nfu.org.uk
Date: 24 July 2001 17:05
Subject: Re: A change of Policy


Attention Mr Ben Gill

Thank you for your reply.  Unfortunately, it is clearly a form letter that
continues to regurgitate the standard response of the NFU regarding the
slaughter policy.

In terms of the slaughter policy being the 'correct' approach, that is very
pedantic vocabulary and the suggestion that the NFU adopted a stamping out
policy instead of vaccination in order to reduce the number slaughtered is perverse.
The policy harks back to the beginning of the last century.


It is surely incumbent upon the NFU, not only in its own interests, but for
the country as a whole to recognise that veterinary medicine has advanced
greatly in the past 100 years.  As someone who comes from a country where
the disease is endemic and who has personally witnessed
the successful vaccination of thousands of cattle, the arguments presented
against vaccination are spurious. 

 

For every 'scientist' who suggests that vaccination is inappropriate, you could readily find, if you choose to do so, a dozen who would endorse it.  These scientists include this countrys FMDV experts as well as human virologists, immunologists, animal scientists(self), veterinarians, and that is without looking outside the country to specialists in countries where the disease is endemic and where their export of meat and meat products is substantially greater than the UK's.

The UK were responsible for driving the stamping out policy in the first
instance as part of a protectionist marketing ploy. As the third richest
country in the world, it does not seem unfeasible that the UK should again
direct policy.for change.  An animal virologist I spoke to in South Africa
in early March, stated that FMD is a 'political disease' and the consequences being
slaughter, is what makes it the most feared disease of animals, and not the
clinical symptoms and contagious nature.

Vaccination in the near future is inevitable, (as early as next year it is
suggested that FMD vaccination will become routine), as a result of
countries such as Turkey, Greece and Bulgaria expecting to join the EU.

In terms of the questions regarding vaccination that you posed:


1. What impact would vaccination have on the duration of the epidemic?


The disease could be stopped dead with a week of vaccinating any animal.


How long it takes to get round to vaccinating all those at risk is
dependent upon the resources that are allocated to the situation.

2. Would more or fewer animals be slaughtered if vaccination were
carried out, compared to the existing "24/48 hour" strategy alone?

Not one additional animal would need to be slaughtered other than on
welfare grounds or vaccination failure.
There is no requirement within EU law for the slaughter of vaccinated
animals.

3. What would be the practical, economic and commercial consequences of
vaccination for the livestock industry?

The Government together with the various unions, farmers and import and
export agencies determine consequences for the livestock industry.
Vaccination does not necessarily mean routine regular vaccination of all
livestock, merely a more humane, and economic method of control, dampening
down and elimination of the virus.

4. What additional precautionary measures and husbandry practices might
impact favourably on the epidemic?

Irrelevant to the immediate situation. When it is brought under control,
that is the time to be considering future restructuring of farming,
transporting, markets, feed management, but if I could could make a few
suggestions:
1. Animals should be slaughtered as close as possible to their originating
farm, i.e. increase the availability of smaller local abattoirs.
2 Cattle and sheep should have separate livestock markets and transport
facilities.
3. Adopt Swedish policy, which is to eat a home produced product at the
appropriate price rather than to import inferior food at a cheaper price.
The majority of the UK population eat too much of the wrong foods and
education into appropriate eating habits need to be implemented.
4. Supermarkets are the determinators of the price paid to the farmers for
their product and who import a cheap product in order to maximise their
profit margins.  Government together with the Unions need to ensure that
this practise is discontinued.
5. Breed animals for disease resistance and not merely their traits for
rapid growth, early maturing, milk yield and prolific breeding.


Vaccinated cattle can pose no risk as carriers except as a result of
individual failure of the vaccine in the animal, failure of the vaccine
itself (highly unlikely) or failure due to inappropriate administration of
the vaccine.  There is no statistical evidence of recovered animals or
vaccinates infecting other livestock.  Even within laboratory conditions,
it has proved very difficult to infect neighbouring livestock, to the extent
that fluid from vesicles was injected into an animal before disease was
produced.

Regarding the concern that cattle incubating the virus before clinical
signs are seen might become carriers: A method to eliminate this risk would be to
test for virus before administering vaccination to animals that are
suspect.


For virus to survive in a population, there is a requirement for in excess
of 20% to harbour the virus.  In sheep the mechanism of infection appears
to be in 'waves' with approximately 5 day incubatory periods between in
contact animals.  Within a flock it is unlikely that at any one time 20% or more of
the flock would be infectious.


Vaccinated meat from other countries is apparently fine according to Meat
and Livestock Commission figures.  Last year the UK imported 67,500 tons of
beef and beef products from countries that vaccinate.

In the Dutch outbreak, milk from vaccinated animals went into the food
chain.  Supermarkets have indicated that they have no problem with the
marketing of vaccinated meat, (after all they are selling it already), and
see no reason to indicate that it is such.  The consumer has no problem
buying vaccinated meat.  They are already eating it by the ton and
thankfully the government have been absolutely honest in describing it as
safe for human consumption.


In a recent meeting at Buith Wells with farmers and a representative from
Tesco Supermarket, it was stated that there would be no resistance to
selling vaccinated meat if the government provided assurances.  This in
fact the government has already done (see above).

FMDV vaccination, only provides protection for a limited time, roughly 6
months. If continued protection is considered necessary than regular boosters are
required.  To suggest that calves or breeding stock would not be acceptable
for export is ridiculous.  By the time that the UK fulfils the criteria for
export i.e. 3 months after the last case has been slaughtered out or 1 year
after the last vaccinate is slaughtered or 2 years after  vaccination but
not followed by slaughter and then obtains the EU's agreement to resume
export, the antibodies in the animals will have dissipated.

Any resistance to vaccination from within the various organic
organisations, you must be aware, spring from an aversion to vaccination generally and not necessarily FMD specifically.  There is growing evidence amongst our human and animal populations, that there is unnecessary routine vaccination for a number of
diseases that may be giving rise to problems of allergy and decreased overall disease resistance.  A radical thought I know, which takes
intelligence and a change of mind set, is to allow the disease to run its
course.  This is not the frightful disease that you have portrayed on radio
and television.  In general, the most serious sequels to the viral
infection, are secondary bacterial infections.  These are simply treated with
antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, analgesics and a convalescent diet.  The
consequence for the animal population, would be increased livelong
immunity.


While productivity, particularly of milk yield is initially reduced,
usually by the second lactation the yield is normal for the animal.

Animals were slaughtered because Holland perceived that the method would
enable them to resume their export trade sooner, but Holland were able to
'contain' the disease and had they been in the UK position, with outbreaks
in all areas of the country with the logistical problems of slaughter and
disposal that are being experienced here, they most surely would have
chosen otherwise.

I suggest to you, that if the UK were to decide to vaccinate or allow the
disease to run its course, the rest of the world would heave a collective
sigh of relief and put down this burden of attempting to keep a non life
threatening virus out of their livestock.

Finally, it is really quite silly to suggest that virus can be contained
solely by improved bio security on farms, between farms and during
transport of milk or livestock.  In laboratories viruses are handled under very
secure conditions because of their ability to pass through filters, to survive in
the environment for variable time spans, to waft about in the air.



Yours faithfully
Michaela Bowles


All for now


from Alan & Rosie