First an announcement from Jacquita:
Cardiff public meeting at the Welsh Assembly Tuesday 31 July 9.30am. A
large gathering is planned outside the Assembly building to persuade Carwyn
Jones (the responsible minister) to take the calls for VACCINATION
seriously. Mr Jones has consistently refused to attend (or send any deputy
to) any of the other public meetings around Wales, so we will go to him in
Cardiff ! The media will be in attendance, so the publicity generated by a
large crowd should be very positive. This is not only relevant to Wales -
decisions or relaxations in any one part of the UK will have an immediate
impact on the rest of the country. Please try to get there & if possible
bring some friends! Please help to save the hefted flocks!!
Some thoughts from Robert in Wellingborough following Michaela's explanation
of FMD antibodies:
Pleased you said of Michaela's comments "takes a bit of understanding" as I
was about to put myself down as "the old and incompetent".
Please forgive an ignorant townie's approach, but these lambs which will
have to be slaughtered ... some millions. There have been some millions of
sheep culled for various frequently incompetent reasons in the FMD disaster.
Some farmers will want to restock in a few months time. Don't lambs turn
into sheep? Can't at least the female ones (I think you call them ewes,
don't the girls always get the lucky breaks) step in? Or, are they like the
excuse on the railways, the wrong sort of lambs?
And all this disinfectant. #104,000 for a farm. I thought the essence of FMD
was that it naturally died away, in hours in a sunny field, or 3 weeks in
damp conditions. It surely would linger longer on a living sheep than in a
building, and sheep are non-infective after 21 days.
Our comment: For an "ignorant townie" Robert herein displays more
commonsense than the entire UK government and NFU leadership combined. But
then maybe that isn't much of a compliment . . . . . .
A most interesting thought from Janet:
Question for the legal brains-
If DEFRA wish to slaughter animals on a contiguous farm that does not have
signs of FMD but is not prepared to disinfect afterwards so that it will
the farmer money to reinstate his business, can that farmer apply for an
injunction to prevent the cull, on the grounds that the Government is acting
Just a thought, I am sure someone can put it more elegantly.
Richard North has sent us a copy of his recent Daily Mail article:
Daily Mail, Tuesday July 24 2001
The farce just goes on and on
As the foot-and-mouth clean-up is halted, another epidemic could be around
the corner. So will there be a public inquiry? Not likely.
By Richard North
COULD there be any more spectacular demonstration of the catastrophic
mismanagement of the foot-and-mouth crisis than Tony Blair's decision to
contrac-tors disinfecting farms after they've been hit by the disease? Mr
Blair has decided that, at #100,000 a farm or #2 million a day, the
which every contaminated farm must undergo before it can bear live-stock
again, is too expensive. This is ten times more than it cost in Holland and
Let us leave aside for a moment the extraordinary fact that the Government
has taken six months since the first outbreak to work out how much it costs
to cleanup farms bit by the disease. The real scandal is that this foolhardy
decision comes just as the RSPCA is warning in chilling language that the
Gov-ernment's mismanagement, cost-cutting and evasion will result in the
disease returning to epidemic levels this autumn. Christopher Laurence, head
of the RSPCA's foot-and-mouth strategy group, says that some of the nine
million ewes roaming freely on British hillsides are almost certainly now
infected. When they are brought to low-land pastures in the autumn, they
will inevitably mingle with other sheep and start the whole infection
What will happen then? Will we slaughter everything in sight as before, burn
and bury carcasses until the sky turns black again and the soil bubbles
blood? Will Tony Blair renounce his pre-election declaration that we 'are
the home straight' as far as the disease is concerned? Will he accept that
vaccination might help to keep it at bay - as did Holland, which
controlled the disease? For no other outbreak approaching this scale has
been controlled without vaccination.
Certainly no one in farming or Government is now prepared to bet that the
disease will be over by Christmas. In fact, the Department of Environment,
Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has extended vets' contracts until next May,
and is offering slaughtermen full-time contracts until the end of the year.
In parts of Britain currently unaffected by the disease, farm-ers believe it
is only a matter of time before they are hit. Crisis meetings are being
up and down the country in mar-ket towns such as Welshpool, where I recently
addressed 150 desperate farmers. And, if there is one question which
continu-ally comes up, it is: why does Tony Blair seem so frightened of
having a full public inquiry on foot-and-mouth?
After all, for months before they came to power in May 1997, Labour
campaigned zealously for a public inquiry into the BSE scan-dal, which was
instituted as soon as Mr Blair was elected. How dif-ferent now is Labour's
approach. The Government has all but brushed the question of a public
aside, even though it is the only kind of inquest capable of revealing the
devastating truth about this sorry affair.
The difference between this cri-sis and BSE is that Labour now carries the
can and knows full well that any public inquiry would find it guilty of
neglect and maladministration. Suddenly, the party seems to have lost its
ardour for public accountability.
Consider this: in purely eco-nomic terms, the projected #20 billion loss to
the economy caused by this disease translates into something like an #8
billion loss in taxes to the Inland Rev-enue - money which could have been
spent on better hospitals, more policemen and more teachers. But this is
the tip of the iceberg. Any inquiry would seri-ously question a policy that
has resulted in the deaths of an esti-mated six million animals, most of
which were healthy. For months now, It has been claimed that up to two
million healthy animals were needlessly slaughtered, specifically against
advice of the country's lead-ing foot-and-mouth experts.
There are other serious ques-tions which must be answered. Crucially it is
now known that, a few months before the official start of the epidemic,
trials of a new foot-and-mouth vaccine were being carried out in this
country. This involved injecting live pigs with vaccine and then
artificially infecting them with the foot-and-mouth virus. So somewhere in
Britain before it became public knowledge, pigs were incubating this
Given that, shortly afterwards, foot-and-mouth broke out in earnest, the
question is: did the vaccine trial go wrong?
And is this the real reason why the then Ministry of Agriculture was so
opposed to vaccination? Either way, we need to know whether the epidemic
really did start in mid-February at Burnside Farm, Heddon-on-the-Wall in
Northumberland, as the Government maintains. There are unconfirmed, but
persistent rumours that MAFF knew, or suspected, that foot-and-mouth was
already in the country as early as September - not least because of its
inquiries in December and January about the availability of railway
The new information about the vaccine trials adds fuel to the rumour mill.
would also tend to explain the extraordinary debacle over vaccination.
it was on the agenda, then it was off, and then it was back on again until,
on April 23, Nick Brown declared to incredu-lous MPs at the Commons
Agri-culture Select Committee that, because the number of out-breaks was
declining, vaccina-tion would not be necessary.
But was that the real reason? There have been suggestions that the policy of
culling so many animals fits in with Brussels' known desire to reduce
perma-nently the number of livestock In Britain because there is such a
surplus of animal products.
A public inquiry would at least help to explain why, against all scientific
advice, Labour chose to extend the so-called 'contigu-ous cull' areas from
two to three kilometres, so pulling in several million more animals for
slaugh-ter than even the most hardened zealots believed necessary
And what about the Govern-ment's choice of 'front-man' to head up its
scientific team, Pro-fessor David King, a career chemist who lists his
speciality as 'surface materials'.
How is it that the Government chose to rely on a scientist, seemingly
unqualified for the role, to manage the biggest foot-and-mouth epidemic ever
known? What was his true role? And therein lies one of the most fundamental
questions. After Tony Blair had already postponed the General Election from
May 3, it was an open secret that the next available date was June 7.
How convenient that, just as the epidemic seemed to be run-ning out of
control, the figures declined to the extent that Pro-fessor King was, on
April 23, able to predict confidently that the epidemic would come skidding
to a halt on - guess what - June 7. If the figures were not massaged for
political reasons, then the coincidence is something that only a truly
independent inquiry will be able to explain.
There are just too many serious questions which demand answers for this
disaster - which is still far from over - to be brushed under the carpet.
Bad news in from Michaela re. Brecon Beacons:
Perverse, on the news I have just heard, that of the 4000 sheep already
tested there are a significant number that have tested positive for antibody
and the suggestion is that all 4000 will be slaughtered. There are probable
around a further 10000 yet to be tested and the outlook is pessimistic. Are
we going to remind Tony Edwards that he promised the graziers that only
those with Ab would be slaughtered? Although that is the wrong way round.
Who is going to challenge this government?
More from Theresa:
I expect that you have heard that some 80 odd animals tested
(?antibody )positive on the Beacons, and we hear that 'they' are going to
proceed to kill them. We have been phoning around, including Epynt
group,Michaela and also a very active person,Janet Hughes. She has been in
touch with Prof Brown in USA who has been arguing for ring fence
vaccination, but to no avail. We are trying to find one of the graziers
on the Beacons to take out an injunction, and Janet is exploring this.
It seems so nonsensical to slaughter animals with antibodies which are
resistant. How do we stop this? who can we speak to? The deputy chief vet.
for Wales says that they are just carrying out orders
Our comment: To refresh our memories yet again, this is the information we
gave out on July 8th:
"The outbreak there was noticed when a cow died(!) and was found to have
been infected - for some time. In the resulting inspections another cow was
found with symptoms. When the contiguous flocks were tested, evidence of
high level post viral antibodies were found (in one flock, 67samples were
taken from a flock of about 100 and 65 returned positive). Two of the
contiguous flocks of 1000 sheep each, had already been sent up to the
On Thursday,(July 4th) Tony Edwards, the Chief Veterinary Officer for Wales
reported to a meeting at Brecon that tests on the hefted sheep had revealed
antibodies but no virus - so the situation was all right.
They are testing all flocks, identifying sheep with antibodies and the level
of antibodies. If they find more than a certain level, they plan to carry
out live virus tests. They plan to round up the hefts for shearing, blood
test them, individually identify them and hold them pending results.
It does not appear that culling is planned if only antibodies are found."
This comes from the BBC Wales website:
Wednesday, 25 July, 2001, 17:26 GMT 18:26 UK
Disease hits Beacons flocks
The disease appears to have hit the Brecon Beacons
Thousands of sheep roaming on the Brecon Beacons face a mass cull after the
confirmation of positive blood test results for foot-and-mouth.
Welsh Assembly Rural Affairs Minister said 4,000 sheep that had undergone
initial tests would be slaughtered.
Sheep take three weeks to show signs of the disease
It is the first time in Wales that free roaming animals have tested
A further 6,000 animals are due to be tested as part of a Defra screening
programme of upland sheep in the Beacons.
Veterinary officials have been testing for the full-blown virus and
The bad news was delivered to graziers at an urgent meeting at the Brecon
army barracks on Wednesday afternoon.
Glyn Powell, vice president of the Farmers' Union of Wales, said up to
sheep grazed in the vicinity of the testing and as many as 100,000 animals
could be affected.
Meanwhile, Wales's 108th case of foot-and-mouth was confirmed at a farm 20
miles away at Llanellen, near Abergavenny, south east Wales.
The assembly is due to announce details on Thursday of a multi-million rural
recovery package for the worst hit areas of Wales.
Mr Jones said that test results received for sheep in five areas of the
Beacons had shown a significant number of positive results.
"Unfortunately, this means that these sheep will have to be slaughtered in
order to prevent further spread of foot and mouth disease in the area," said
"We have been in discussion with the graziers this afternoon to explain the
"We are also in discussion with Defra veterinary staff in London about the
next stages to satisfy ourselves that the Beacons are free from FMD."
The minister added: "We are well aware that the loss of these hefted flocks
will have serious environmental consequences for the Brecon Beacons.
"For that reason we are already in discussions with the European Commission
about the special support which will need to be made available to encourage
the re-introduction of sheep onto the areas of the Brecon Beacons."
Mr Jones said that support for the beleagured Beacons farmers would be
carefully tailored to ensure that re-stocking successfully re-established
The minister said the initiative would start from a low base and gradually
build up new flocks, which would be hefted in the same way as their
"The opportunity will also be taken to ensure that eventual stocking
densities are contained at a level which promotes environmental benefits and
avoids any problems of overgrazing," he said.
Our comment: So what exactly has testing revealed - active infection
with live virus, or evidence of past infection with antibodies? As usual
the BBC seems to confuse the two entirely seperate issues.
Further news forwarded from Michaela:
Sent to me by Jon Dobson who is working with Janet Bayley (NFMG)and Ruth
>*** Open mail ***
>I was on the 'phone to Defra Cardiff today finding out about blood testing
>procedures (penning sizes, tag types/methods, disinfecting tagging guns,
>change of needles) and the final question was what happens with the results
>and they said we are wating for Page Street to decide.
>As of 4 this afternoon they got the results back for 600 animals of which
>100 tested sero positive, had an emergency meeting, offered the farmers
>per ewe, and are setting to the slaughter of 4000 tommorrow. That's a 1/3
>the total flock in the Brecons, the whole subject of Ruth Watkins proposal.
>Michaela - they are just thinking it up as they go along, there is no rhyme
>or reason, they have completely ignored any new thinking on the subject.
From the warmwell site:
NEWSFLASH: The Prince of Wales stopped to talk to Mrs D Boag during his
walkabout in Bury St Edmonds this afternoon (July 26).
She was holding up a sign "Save the Brecon Sheep!" Prince Charles stopped to
talk sympathetically to her and she gave him some leaflets - including the
work on vaccination by Dr Ruth Watkins and the latest Press Release from the
Foot and Mouth group. Members of the press took some too.
The Chairman of the Brecon Beacons National Parks stated that he wants
vaccination for the sheep. Please would you fax or phone to voice support
for this if you would like.
The phone no is 01874 624437 Fax 01874 622574
Also, if you can get an email quickly to this address:
email@example.com , I am assured it will be forwarded to
Carwyn Jones straight away.
The fax no for Carwyn Jones is 02920 898302
What happens today is critical for many other areas. There is a real
possibility of changing the tide of opinion at the Assembly today.
I have recieved a reply to my application to vaccinate. Not a simple 'no'.
I attach the copy which I typed laboriously into the computer. I am
about the further information I might request. Any suggestions gratefully
Room 602a, 1a Page Street, London SW1P 4PQ
Tel: 020 7904 6000 GTN: 3290 6212
Direct Line: 0207 7904 6212 FAX: 020 7904 6552
Our reference: DEV 302
Mr Lawrence Wright
Middle Campscott Farm
21 July 2001
Dear Mr Wright,
FOOT AND MOUTH DISEASE - VACCINATION
Thank you for your letter of 10th July 2001, requesting permission to
vaccinate your animals against foot and mouth disease, which has been passed
to me by John Fitzgerald of the VMD.
I understand your wish to protect your animals, and can assure you that
vaccination is still an option in the Government's fight against the
disease. However, voluntary vaccination by individual farmers without any
form of governmental control is not permitted.
Vaccination against foot and mouth disease is covered by the provisions of
Council Directive 85/511/EEC, which requires member states to prohibit
vaccination. However, the Directive does provide for limited recourse to
emergency vaccination in a specified area, in accordance with plans which
must be authorised by the European Commission, working through the European
Standing Veterinary Committee.
The rules governing the use of vaccine are stringent and far-reaching. The
precise conditions vary according to the details of the proposed vaccination
campaign, but broadly they involve a ban on all livestock movements within
the vaccination zone for 30 days following the last vaccination. Other
restrictions then apply to the movement and trading of vaccinated animals
and their products for a minimum of 12 months. As you are aware, vaccinated
animals must also be specifically identified and registered.
A decision to vaccinate against FMD must, therefore, be taken at a national
level and must take into account the views and wishes of all interested
parties that would be affected by a vaccination programme.
During the early stage of the UK outbreak, we obtained two Commission
Decisions to permit vaccination in limited circumstances. In the event,
having examined the options carefully, it was decided not to pursue either
of these vaccination strategies, at least for the time being.
A Commission Decision of 30th March permitted the UK to vaccinate cattle in
certain counties, including Cumbria and Devon. In April the Chief
Scientific Advisor and Chief Veterinary Officer advised that vaccination of
cattle in North Cumbria should be carried out, provided the programme had
the substantial support of farmers, veterinarians, consumers and the food
trade. The level of support required to make the programme work was not
there, and as the numbers of new cases fell, it became clear that it would
not be achieved at that time.
A second Commission Decision of 12th April allowed member states to
vaccinate to protect endangered species in zoos, but only in very restricted
circumstances. For example, the zoo in question must lie within 25 km of a
confirmed case of foot and mouth disease, there must be a real disease risk,
and stringent biosecurity measures must be put in place first. Various
conditions would apply after use of vaccination, and prior to any
vaccination programme being adopted, details of the animals involved and
their location would have to be notified to the Commission and other EU
Member States. It was decided not to pursue the vaccination of endangered
species, at least for the time being, for a number of reasons. In
particular, few zoos actually met the criteria; recommended biosecurity
measures should in themselves offer a high degree of protections; and
unwelcome restraints continue after vaccination.
Vaccination would only be effective in the battle to eradicate foot and
mouth disease if used in conjunction with other measures, such as effective
biosecurity and movement controls. No country has ever eradicated foot and
mouth disease by vaccination alone. The Government believes strongly that
biosecurity is vitally important in controlling and eradicating disease. I
can understand your concerns about re-opening public rights of way.
However, a balance must be struck between the need to control foot and mouth
disease and the need to do no more damage than is necessary to other
essential industries. Regulatory controls over public access to the
countryside must be proportionate to the risk of spreading FMD, taking
account of the prevailing disease situation. The risks of spreading FMD
through using rights of way have diminished since the early days of the
outbreak as the amount of infection in circulation has reduced
significantly, and virus survival times on land are now shorter. The
Veterinary Risk Assessment (No. 4) was revised to reflect this, which is why
the restrictions were relaxed.
In summary, I appreciate your concerns and understand the views put forward
by you and other proponents of vaccination. These, and the views of those
against vaccination, are taken into consideration. Vaccination remains an
option, and is continually reassessed in the light of changing circumstances
and knowledge about the disease. However, we would only vaccinate if that
were the advice of the Chief Veterinary Officer (as was the case in North
Cumbria) and our advisors have not made any recommendations for a
vaccination campaign in the current situation.
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you would like any further
Dr Keri Torney
Vaccination Team AHD
This item comes from the Heart of Devon group:
A disturbing piece of news from Yorkshire. Folk there are convinced the army
are playing a part in spreading the disease. They are wearing their usual
army gear, no overalls, army boots (should be wellies) and are lounging
around with slaughtermen and others laughing and joking, before moving on to
If this is the case it is an outrage. Is this contributory to the disease
travelling to Thirsk?
What point checking tankers feed lorries etc if the army are behaving so
totally irresponsibly? !!
please pass this on to readers - get this out.
Heart of Devon
Our comment: Can anyone provide confirmation of these rumours please?
Now for some scientific stuff. Theresa raised this issue with us a few days
Just got some information on vesiculat stomatitis (which is a rhabdovirus,
not a picornavirus) This virus has been isolated from some insects
(though in the case of human disease of hepatitis B the amount of virus is
too small to infect another host) However, this is a worrying thought and
may explain the so-called wind spread. Do you know of any work on this?
So we asked Andrew King at Pirbright laboratory, and have now received his
reply. It's well worth reading because he explains the huge differences in
the risk of infection between various mechanisms of spread, with particular
reference to footpaths:
Vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV), which produces a disease in cattle similar
to FMDV, infects certain species of biting fly (one genus, if I remember
rightly, is Simulium the buffalo gnat which is found widely in eastern
Europe but in England is restricted to the valley of the Windrush, Dorset).
VSV replicates in those flies, which thereby act as a so-called "active"
transmitters of the disease. As far as I know, that is the ONLY way VSV is
transmitted between cattle. Because insects are carried on the wind, the
diseases they carry also spread on the wind, although that spread is
restricted to parts of the world that the relevant insects inhabit, and to
the time of year when they are active. There is no VSV in this country and
it is not regarded as a threat to agriculture.
When transmission is said to be "active" it means that the virus is adapted
to growing in that insect (called the "vector"). The vector amplifies the
virus, and is itself a host. Passive transmission is when the virus is
merely transported by the vector (e.g. insect, bird, fox, or hiking boot)
but doesn't replicate in/on it. Such transmission is normally very
There are no known active insect vectors for FMDV. We tried transmitting
FMDV using the stable-fly (Stomoxys), which has particularly unpleasant
mouth parts and takes a big meal, and found that it was a highly inefficient
vector; after feeding the flies on infected animals that had high levels of
virus in their bloodstream, FMDV could be recovered from the flies, but
only briefly. The risk of transmission that way is regarded as
"theoretical". I am reminded of the media hysteria that was whipped up some
time ago about the possible transmission of AIDS amoung humans by mosquitos.
Other potential vectors for FMDV which worry people are birds, earthworms,
and humans. I wouldn't have thought earthworms moved fast or far enough to
be taken seriously, but birds come into direct contact with infected
animals/carcasses and they travel fast. Yet, there is quite telling
epidemiological evidence that birds do NOT in practice transmit FMDV. As for
humans, it is unusual for a human to seroconvert even when challenged with
large doses of FMDV, which means that the virus can not replicate in
them(us). Therefore, if humans or human artefacts (boots, wheels, etc)
transmit FMDV, they can only do it passively. Generally such transmission
seems to be very inefficient; exceptions are animal handlers (especially
dealers/vets at markets) going from animal to animal in quick succession.
Why is passive transmission so inefficient? To understand, one has to
compare risks in numerical terms. We have to ask ourselves: Why is active
transmission COMPARATIVELY efficient? The only animals in Britain in which
FMDV naturally grows are cloven-hoofed mammals and hedgehogs (hedgehogs
don't seem to worry epidemiologists much; maybe they don't move around
enough). Infected animals spread the disease because they amplify it hugely.
The minimum dose of 10 infectious particles for a sheep or cow can turn into
trillions of particles drooled every hour. Passive vectors - birds, etc -
can't do that, and it is by that margin - numerically an astronomical
difference - that one has to think of passive vectors as being less of a
risk. Plus, it is virtually impossible for passive vectors (humans, anyway)
to spread FMDV on the wind in the way infected animals do (we have tried!).
So, even if a human or car wheel is smeared with FMDV, it is extremely
difficult for that virus to jump across a fence or hedge and into the mouth
of a susceptible animal. And, even on the open Brecons, how far can a boot
or wheel carry the virus? Suppose, e.g., the number of virions smeared on
the path at each footstep is 90% of the previous step, then within 200
meters the risk would have dropped to less than 1,000th of that at the
start. An infected sheep or cow, by contrast, poses a risk by airborne
spread at a distance of more than 0.5 km; pigs, much further. Moreover
infected animals travel on their own four feet, feet that are dribbling
vesicular fluid containing up to 100,000,000,000 (10 to the power of eleven)
virions per ml; they also have an unhealthy taste for mixing with other
sheep/cattle. Finally, passively carried virus loses infectivity with time.
It dies rapidly under warm conditions, and can't survive being dried, or
even a sniff of acid (the lactic acid that builds up in muscle after death
is enough to kill the virus in boneless meat). Even when kept dark and wet
in the fridge at the right pH, FMDV loses infectivity at typically ~10-fold
per week, whereas virus being shed by an infected sheep or cow is constantly
fresh and maximally infectious.
However approximate these numbers are, they do help us to understand why the
risk of FMDV transmission by most passive mechanisms is low - very, very low
- in comparison with that by infected animals.
I have answered your question about VSV at length, because the subject of
comparative risks is an important one. Farmers are desperately anxious about
the disease, and how to control it, and no-one wants to be responsible for
accidental spread. I don't pretend to have all the answers.
Nevertheless, we have to face the fact that existing control measures don't
work anywhere near adequately, and so I welcome, possibly naively, (i) the
partial opening of the countryside to the public (don't worry! On the
Cumbrian fells access is rigidly controlled), (ii) the current review of
clean-up procedures on infected farms, and (iii) the scientific inquiry
promised by the government, as evidence of a more realistic approach to risk
management in a situation where the stakes are so terribly high for farmers
and many rural businesses; also, to a very real extent, for the government
and population at large.
from Alan & Rosie