The following letter by Alistair McConnachie appeared in The Galloway News,
28 June 2001. A slightly edited version also appeared in The Scottish
Farmer, 30 June 2001. Please feel free to forward it on if you think it is
of use.
----------------------------------------------
Dear Sir,

SNFU president, Jim Walker, speaking of the slaughter policy for Foot and
Mouth said at meetings in Dumfries and Castle Douglas on the 7th June, "If
we had to re-run the whole policy after what we have gone through, then the
only thing that would happen is that it would happen quicker and it would be
even more Draconian." (The Galloway News, 14-6-01)

It is important to point out a) the errant science behind Mr Walker's words
and b) the devastating consequences of such a policy.

The slaughter policy and, especially, the contiguous kill which has been
responsible for most of the animal destruction, is built on the notion that
if you slaughter animals fast enough you will outrun the disease. Never mind
the fact that slaughtering animals on this industrial scale is contrary to
the whole concept of "animal husbandry", the fact remains that there is no
scientific evidence to support such a policy and there is much evidence
which mitigates against it.

For example, the 1967 outbreak came under control without a contiguous
culling policy.

A paper written in the Veterinary Record (12-5-01) claims that 1000 infected
sheep can only spread the virus downwind approximately 200 yards. 1000
infected cattle are alleged to spread it approximately 700 yards, and 100
infected cattle only 200 yards. Even these figures are challenged by eminent
experts such as Fred Brown of Plum Animal Disease Centre in New York. He
carried out an experiment - seven times - to see if neighbouring pigs
separated in the same shed could spread it to each other. None of the
healthy pigs caught the virus. Brown states, "There is no direct, physical
evidence for airborne transmission of foot-and-mouth virus." (The
Independent, 10-4-01)

Maff admitted that there is no evidence that it is passed by walkers
(Independent on Sunday, 25-3-01) and Dr Alex Donaldson of Pirbright has
admitted that they have no evidence that the virus is carried in smoke from
pyres (Farming News, 31-5-01, Livestock supplement sec.)

We are also entitled to question the true extent of this outbreak. The virus
is so harmless in sheep that vets openly admit they have trouble diagnosing
it. We are now informed that the "mystery blisters" which had been diagnosed
as "foot and mouth" in the south of Scotland were "unconnected with the
epidemic" (The Daily Telegraph, 18-6-01).

Yet, in the face of all this evidence, Mr Walker states that next time the
killing policy will be even more "draconian."

He ought also to consider that the slaughter policy he and his colleagues
advocate is directly responsible for the animal welfare abuses which have
been perpetrated.

It is responsible for the restrictions which are being placed upon our
movement. It is responsible for the devastating loss of income being
suffered by small businesses.

It is responsible for a growing loss of confidence and trust in the police.
Law-abiding people tell me they believe we are now living in a "police
 state". We have seen "armed response units" on "standby" outside the
premises of farmers.

If it were not for the slaughter policy, life would have continued very much
as normal. Foot and Mouth would have been just like any other animal disease
that the public never hears about and doesn't care about.

If Mr Walker and his colleagues really do think that they will ever again be
able to advocate the slaughter policy which has visited so much devastation,
then they ought, at least, to consider the damage such an apparently
arrogant attitude does to the public's perception of farmers.

Yours faithfully,
Alistair McConnachie
-------------------------------------------


Meanwhile, Bryn has continued to campaign for action following the "Gilwern"
slaughter atrocity, as this recent copy correspondence shows.  Well done,
mate, and keep up the pressure to avoid the inevitable attempt at sweeping
under the carpet:


----- Original Message -----
From: Bryn Wayt
To: Richard Rossington (Wales Gov- Gilwern)
Cc: Mike (RSPCA) Butcher
Sent: Thursday, July 05, 2001 12:24 PM
Subject: The GILWERN slaughter


To :  The National Assembly for Wales
        Office of Carwyn Jones

Attn: Richard Rossington - Agricultural Policy Division 3


Hello there Richard,

Your Ref : AT / 4777 / 01   The GILWERN Slaughter

Many thanks for keeping me up to date via your letter dated  3rd July 2001,
which acknowledges my email of the 23 MAY 2001, on the matter of the
appalling and cruel slaughter of sheep at Gilwern.

I am glad I am not the only one who has complained of this heinous act,
fronted by the incompetent Monmouthshire Council.

Having called for a "more comprehensive report", I am VERY surprised that
Carwyn Jones accepted the Monmouthshire Council's report (as published on
their web-site) as it lacks ANY evidence from the TWO Officers of the RSPCA
who were involved, or indeed any direct evidence from the "rifleman".  How
can a Minister accept such a shoddy, lame and incomplete report ?

That Council Report was therefore loaded to the advantage of the Council;
which one would expect of people covering up an event showered with gross
negligence.  The report is indeed, "the basis" of my "critique" as is the
video footage screened nationally.

As you know, I have complained to the Council, the Police, the HSE, the
RSPCA and your goodselves, in the hope that those who broke the law that
day - of which there is no doubt - will be brought to book.
This country is perceived to be sprinkled with animal lovers, and the video
footage of a fool with a 0.22 calibre rifle injuring panicked sheep
nullifies these perceptions. That the excuse was he acting under Council
orders does not detract from the fact there was a clear case of animal
cruelty in full view of witnesses.  Barbaric acts are punishable through the
law. I hope the law is not made an ass.

My thanks again for dealing with the matter, and for passing on my
correspondence to those more involved.

Yours sincerely,

Captain Bryn Wayt
01435 864937 (fax too)
M 0781 801 8814

#                                             #
#


Yet more on blood testing now.  We received a request for information that
started off another line of enquiry to Pirbright as follows:

-----Original Message-----
From: alan & rosie beat [mailto:alan.rosie@lineone.net]
Sent: 01 July 2001 13:09
To: Andrew King
Subject: Penrith blood testing facility


Hello Andrew,

I have just received this extract (taken from the NFU south west newsletter)
and accompanying question from Pete Mundy of the Soil Association:


"Blood testing capacity to be increased soon:  Since April, over a third of
a million blood samples have been tested at Pirbright in Surrey and Porton
Down in Wiltshire.  These two establishments had been working towards a
weekly capacity of 60,000.   But even this would be insufficient to cope
with the planned screening programme in Infected Areas.  The difficulty with
finding new testing sites has been concern over biosecurity and a possible
leak of live virus from the lab.  This is being overcome by setting up a new
centre at Penrith in Cumbria that will only receive heat-treated blood
samples (the virus is killed but antibodies can still be detected).  We are
told that this facility should raise the national capacity to 100,000
samples a week when it comes on line in July.


Q: If the new tests 'kill live virus', and only identify antibodies surely
this will simply speed up the slaughter of animals that have come into
contact and effectively recovered from the disease - or can the remains of
the 'live virus' still be detected?"

#                         #                    #

Andrew, I cannot make much sense of testing heat-treated blood samples
unless the antibodies found can be subjected to the virus neutralisation
test to confirm FMD exposure.   The obvious fear is that this heat-treated
test could lead to all sheep showing antibodies in general to be
slaughtered.  Can you throw any light on this for us all, please?

Many thanks,

Alan Beat


From: amq king (IAH-P)
Sent: 02 July 2001 09:12
To: 'alan & rosie beat'
Subject: RE: Penrith blood testing facility


Ah well! As I keep saying, there are two completely unrelated tests, one for
virus (looking for signs that the animal IS infected NOW and therefore needs
to be got rid of straight away), the other for antibodies against the virus
looking for signs that the animal has ever been infected in the past. The
fear is that, for reasons I've explained before, there is a significant
chance that cattle and sheep carrying such antibodies may STILL be infected
in a way that produces no symptoms and for which there is currently no
reliable
test. The risk of such animals causing outbreaks is very much lower, but
sometime they still have to be identified and weeded out, and obviously, the
quicker the better. The government has got to prove to the world at large
that British livestock are clean, and currently the only accredited way to
do that is to prove that they are all (or a statistically valid sample of
them anyway) free of antibodies to FMDV and are therefore fully susceptible
to it.

So! When samples comes into this lab, if they are marked for "diagnosis"
they go immediately into the emergency virus testing routine and an answer
is delivered to our veterinary liaison office at front-of-house here within
a few hours (if it is positive), days if it is negative. If they are marked
for "serum assay" then they go to one of the teams that are churning through
vast numbers of antibody assays. The diagnosis tests can ONLY be done at
Pirbright, whereas the serum tests are also being done at the biosecure lab
at Porton Down and the less secure one at Penrith. As I understand it,
Penrith are only getting samples from parts of the country where FMDV has
never even been near and where the risk of undetected infection is therefore
extremely low. Heat treatment further reduces the risk as FMDV is killed by
heating to 56C for two hours, whereas the antibodies you are looking for are
pretty well unaffected. MAFF (now DEFRA) wouldn't normally make these
concessions but "must needs!", as they say, and - let's face it - it is not
as if the Penrith area is all that lily-white itself.

What the extract from the NFU newsletter doesn't say is that Pirbright is
taking delivery of a highly sophisticated robotic machine for doing, and
reporting, the serum tests. I believe it is already here and undergoing
commissioning tests. If not, it very soon will be. My senior colleagues seem
absolutely confident (can't think why!) that this machine will get through
100,000 samples per week by itself.

I hope you are beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel.

Kind regards!

Andrew


-----Original Message-----
From: alan & rosie beat
Sent: 02 July 2001 15:42
To: amq king (IAH-P)
Subject: RE: Penrith blood testing facility


Dear Andrew,

>From previous correspondence between us:

"2.  The 2 - 5 % of animals that "carry enough antibodies to react naturally
against FMDV" you describe as "maybe" samples that have to be "laboriously
re-tested".  How are these re-tested, when the identical procedure risks
showing the same (false) result?  Do you request further blood samples for
such re-testing?

No! The serum samples are put through a different test, called a
neutralisation test to see if the serum can inactivate live FMDV. It is
laborious, but it does provide an independent measure. A serum sample that
gives a "maybe" result with the routine colour test is most unlikely to
neutralise significantly as well unless it really does come from an infected
animal."

Q. What I am now trying to understand is this.  Testing of heat-treated
samples
at Penrith will give 2 - 5% of "maybe" samples that need the virus
neutralisation test to check them out, don't they?  And how are they going
to do that without live FMD virus facilities?

Sorry if I'm missing the obvious.

Best wishes

Alan


From: amq king (IAH-P)
Sent: 02 July 2001 15:59
To: 'alan & rosie beat'
Subject: RE: Penrith blood testing facility


Alan

You have now come up with a question that I haven't heard discussed. As I
said before, the
actual figure for the "maybe"s was coming out at the bottom end of the
range, i.e. no more than 2%. I assume that those iffy samples from Porton
and Penrith are sent to Pirbright for neutralisation testing. They'd have to
be. It's a lot of work, though; more than 1,000 manual neut assays per week,
and it will obviously entail extra delay.

Andrew


Sent: 03 July 2001 13:02
To: amq king (IAH-P)
Subject: RE: Penrith blood testing facility


Dear Andrew,

I would like to confirm that our assumption is correct i.e. that "maybe"
samples will in fact be sent to Pirbright for neutralisation testing.  This
is not for myself but for those whose samples are tested at Penrith or
Porton, and who are concerned about the test procedures.

Can one of your colleagues confirm this please?

Thanks as always for your patience,

Alan

From: amq king (IAH-P)
Sent: 06 July 2001 09:13
To: 'alan & rosie beat'
Subject: RE: Penrith blood testing facility

Alan

I am assured that the assumption IS correct, i.e. that it IS policy to check
out all positive/borderline sera by virus neutralisation tests. CAMAR
(Porton) are sending us their's, but my colleague tells me that we have not
had any yet from Penrith because that lab isn't yet properly up and running.
It can take a long time. It semed to take for ever to set up our second team
at Pirbright, staffed by visiting lab workers from the MAFF VLA centre, and
get their operations quality assured.

Andrew


ENDS

Our comment:  So there you have it, an assurance from Pirbright that the
processing of heat-treated samples at the new Penrith facility will not
result in any departure from existing procedures for screening out
antibodies using the virus neutralisation test.  Why didn't DEFRA just say
that in the first place?  It is this constant lack of accurate information
that causes so much unnecessary concern amongst those directly affected by
their decisions/announcements.  To their great credit, Pirbright have been
open and forthcoming on the many questions we have placed before them  -
other government departments please note.

#                                                 #
#


From the Newcastle website:

Jul 5 2001

By Helen Charlton, The Journal


As each day passes Emma Nichol's fears grow for her children as the stench
from a livestock burial site permeates the air in the tiny village of Tow
Law.

Concerns have grown so great at the County Durham village that families
gather weekly at the gates of the 240-acre Inkerman burial site to protest
as rotting animals are brought in for disposal.

The protesters' fears revolve around their health and safety. Living on the
doorstep of the burial site since the outbreak of foot-and-mouth, they feel
demoralised, frightened and ignored by Government health chiefs as they
endure the indescribable daily smell of death.

The latest twist in the tale of the controversial site came yesterday, when
residents discovered leakage of leachates - liquid waste from rotting animal
carcases, which had risen to the surface of the trenches.

The Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) yesterday moved
tankers into the site to clear up the leakage and insist there was no danger
to the public, but their assurances have failed to make a dent in campaigner
Emma Nichol's concerns.

Ms Nichol said: "The smell was awful this morning, all the pits are supposed
to be capped but leachates are leaking through to the surface and the smell
is just as bad.

"My little boy's school is next to the site, and when there's an
environmental disaster going on you are terrified. This is no joke, but we
told Defra what would happen."

However a Defra spokesman said that leachate is a process that has been
going on over a long period of time which health chiefs had allowed for and
safety precautions were in place to pump the liquid away.

He said: "As long as it does not leak out of the trenches, it's part of the
process. We don't want it to leak downwards or sideways, there are systems
in place to prevent this.

"There is no leakage of leachates offsite at Tow Law and the collection of
this into a permanent sump was being engineered yesterday afternoon. There
is no danger to public health as a result of this development.

"I would like to apologise to local residents for any odours which have
occurred due to operations during the course of the day."

ENDS


Our comment:   How would you feel if this was happening on your doorstep?
And would DEFRA's comments allay your concerns?


from Alan & Rosie