In the latest move of his quest to be permanently removed from Ben Gill's
Christmas card list, Alan has fired off this letter to several regional and
national newspapers today:
In the aftermath of the government's mass slaughter programme that has wiped
out livestock on nearly ten thousand farms nationwide, DEFRA have just
issued a guidance leaflet offering advice to farmers on restocking with
sheep. Among many recommendations, this provides an "important must-do
list" for the health and welfare of the new flock, as follows (with my own
explanatory notes in brackets beside each item):
# treat for sheep scab and lice (recommended is to "plunge in an
# treat for resistant intestinal worms (by injection, or liquid chemical by
# treat for all stages of liver fluke (two doses of liquid chemical by
mouth, six weeks apart)
# vaccinate against clostridial disease (two injections six weeks apart
initially, then annual booster thereafter)
# vaccinate against pasteurellosis (same regime as clostridial above)
# treat feet as necessary for foot rot (pare excess growth and treat with
chemical spray or footbath)
# consider vaccination for enzootic abortion and toxoplasmosis (same regime
as clostridial above)
The animals should be quarantined on arrival for 21 days and this programme
embarked upon immediately, the leaflet says. Depending on the treatments
chosen by the shepherd, each sheep will therefore receive: one plunge into
organophosphate, one walk through a chemical footbath, three doses of liquid
chemical by mouth, and eight or more injections, all within the first six
weeks on the new farm. This advice has been sanctioned by, among other
bodies, the National Farmers Union and the Food Standards Agency.
I offer this observation. The NFU, led by Ben Gill, repeatedly claimed
during the foot and mouth crisis that vaccination against the disease was
not possible because consumers would refuse to buy vaccinated meat or
products. Meanwhile, Mr Gill has also exhorted the public to "buy British"
by looking out for the NFU's "Little Red Tractor" logo on food labels, under
which scheme all the above treatments are not only permitted but
Hypocrisy and deceit are the two words that now spring to mind.
Alan Beat (a smallholder with sheep)
Another angle of attack on the Animal Death Bill from Richard:
This Bill can be fought successfully but the choice of battlefield and the
correct tactics are essential.
Forget the Commons - Blair's inbuilt majority will force it through.
BUT, the measure did not appear in the Labour manifesto and it was not in
the Queen's speech. Therefore, constitutionally and by convention, it is
one which the Lords have the power to throw out.
Here, we can rely on the Conservatives and the Cross-benchers and the
Lib-Dems would almost certainly come "on-side" on the basis of the affront
to civil liberties.
Some of the Labour peers are also sufficiently independent to ignore any
whip. Thus, the battlefield is the Lords, where there is a realistic chance
of beating the government.
The essential thing in the meantime is to marshall public support and a
sense of outrage.
To my mind, the first port of call is the Countryside Alliance.
Now that FMD is apparently on the wane, there is no reason for the CA to
hold off on its march. We need to put a million people on the streets of
London and, at the moment, the only organisation capable of doing this is
the CA. To that effect, I have sent a very stern note to Burge (chief
executive) and await his reply.
A thoughtful suggestion from Paul:
Dear Alan and Rosie
Firstly, thank you so much for putting together the regular bulletin
although I'm not sure it's good for one's health to have one's blood boil on
a daily basis!
People have been saying for some time how awful it is what the government
are doing and what can we do about it. I noted last night the trouble you,
Alan, are having being taken seriously by the media.
This is deplorable of course but it is the way of the world. If people want
to be heard what is needed is numbers and organisation. This is of course
the job of the N.F.U., the R.C.V.S., the R.S.P.C.A., D.A.S.H. !! etc.
Unfortunately it looks as though none of these has the will or the guts to
stand up and be counted.
The contributors to the bulletin and the people who run the various
sympathising web sites are people with knowledge, enthusiasm and most
important of all integrity, but no INFLUENCE. If we all joined together,
united under one banner, we would have a louder voice.
Simply put, I suggest that your email recipients could form the base
membership of an association dedicated to the fight against the sort of
injustice we have seen over the last few months (if we ever thought that the
end of the current outbreak of F and M would be the end of our problems then
the proposed amendments to the Animal Health Act have surely put paid to
I don't intend to go into too much detail but obviously subs. would be
required from members for the day to day running of the association and a
committee would also be required - I know, I know, I can hear the groans
from here, I'm not a great lover of committees but if we are to be taken
seriously it has to be this way.
I hope this might provoke some reaction - if it is favourable then we will
need to move quickly.
If there is little, or negative reaction then I don't know what to suggest
but if we just go on writing about what's going on and complaining about it
only to each other and do nothing else then we probably deserve whatever we
get. (This is not to underestimate the value of the regular email bulletin,
indeed I think it would be a VITAL link between members.)
Our comment: Paul has here articulated what several others are thinking and
saying. We have our own thoughts and have communicated these to him but,
not wishing to prejudice the outcome of his initiative, we will keep quiet
for the moment and invite you - yes, you! - to respond in your own way.
What do you think? How do you see this message group moving forward?
Please let us know over the next day or two.
More Pirbright correspondence now, between Alan and Andrew King:
A correspondent made this astute observation to me recently:
"The other point which has struck me very forcibly (and so far no-one else
seems to have made) is that IF there are these odd farms which are genuinely
testing positive for anti-bodies, then presumably that means that the
disease must have been in their flocks some months ago. So how come there
have been no problems on any of the neighbouring farms? If there had been
ANY justification for contiguous culls then surely this would be shown up
now because (according to the lies we have been told by Maff, Defra and the
government scientists) this disease spreads like wildfire from farm to farm.
Surely the lack of ongoing infection on neighbouring farms proves far more
effectively than any scientist or computer model can that the spread of the
disease simply doesn't happen in the way they all insisted it did? Do you
think anyone in authority has actually noticed this?"
She is prompted in this by the low trickle of "antibody positive" test
results turning up here in Devon as the serological testing programme rolls
out. None of the farms slaughtered out during this phase have caused any
disease transference to their neighbours, and in most cases not all the
flock has tested positive showing that - dare I say it - the disease has
died out naturally within the flock, because it is not self-sustaining in
Your comments would be welcomed.
Re the issue of isolated IPs (infected premises), two points:
First: according to figures given in a seminar recently by Alex Donaldson,
DEFRA estimate that 79% of all cases (a 'case' being a new IP) arose through
"local spread" (i.e. from neighbouring farms) by unidentified means (i.e.
NOT they believe on the wind, NOT they believe by people, NOT by animal
movements, NOT by milk lorries, etc, etc; NOT ANY identifiable route of
transmission). Presumably quite a few of the remaining 21% of transmissions
were also due to local spread, but by identifiable means, and so would have
been assigned one of the other categories of transmission route. I have no
idea how DEFRA come to their conclusions, but I simply point out that the
best guess of the ministry vets in the field is that at least 4 out of every
5 transmission events were local.
Second: the latest mathematical modelling of the epidemic: The paper I've
studied most closely is that by Keeling et al soon to be published in
'Science'; the authors include Mark Woolhouse and Dan Haydon at Edinburgh,
both of whom have collaborations with Pirbright. This model is much more
sophisticated than the models that informed the government's decision to opt
for a contiguous cull policy at the end March/early April. Crucially, it
meets the objection of our veterinary epidemiologists by allowing for
differences in susceptibility and infectivity between cattle and sheep (pigs
played almost no part except at the very beginning). Encouragingly, the
best-fitting estimates of these parameters confirm that sheep are almost as
infectious as cattle but a lot less susceptible, which is very much in line
with experimental data obtained at Pirbright on actual animals. Another plus
for the model is that, when they allow the model to "predict" an imaginery
epidemic from the starting point of February 23rd, just four days after the
disease was confirmed in the UK, it accurately replicates the actual course
of events, not just overall, but individually at each epidemiological focus:
Devon, Mid-Wales, Cumbria, etc. DEFRA and the modellers also agree that
wind-borne spread was only a minor contributor to the epidemic. Thus, there
is a great deal of agreement between the model and
So! The model is all hunky dory! What does it tell us? Needless to say it
broadly confirms the dire predictions of the simpler models last Spring. As
DEFRA have found in practice, the model says that "local spread" is the main
form of transmission, whatever its mechansim(s). That mechanism is not
understood, and it may be because the experts don't understand it, that they
didn't twig it was so important, and so never previously suggested
contiguous culling as a standard policy. Also one can sympathise with vets
who baulk at such a terrible control measure. Whatever the reasons, in
1967/8 there was no contiguous cull policy and only IPs were slaughtered
out. The comparison with today's experience is interesting. There were more
cases in 1967/8 than in this year's more dangerous, and geographically
dispersed, SERIES of epidemics in Britain. The modellers say that, if the
contiguous cull policy had been adopted from the beginning, the number of
animals needing to be destroyed would have been many FEWER than actually
were destroyed, whereas, if IP culling only had been adopted, three and a
half times as many animals would have had to be destroyed before the disease
was eradicated (in fact, the epidemic would still be raging). In short, you
have to be cruel to be kind.
The model also makes important predictions about the effectiveness, or
rather lack of it, of various strategies for controlling the epidemic by
vaccination. There were also predictions, which many people would find
unpalatable, about the consequences of selective culling of sheep, or
At the risk of being contradicted by Follett, I am personally convinced that
DEFRA's policy from April onwards was broadly optimal, at least from the
point of view of the agricultural economy. The problem is that what is best
for agriculture is not necessarily best for civil liberties, tourism, and
votes. These latter interests may not be sacrificed next time.
Andrew M.Q. King
Head, Division of Molecular Biology (Pirbright)
Institute for Animal Health,
Alan's further points:
"at least 4 out of every 5 transmission events were local."
The paper by the Imperial College team, published in Nature magazine on 4th
October, has this to say:
"The newly estimated spatial kernel differed significantly from that
previously derived from the infectious contacts identified by MAFF, with
considerably more long-distance transmission events being predicted. This
implies significant biases in the MAFF contact-tracing process, with closer
contacts being more easily identified.
"The median distance of the newly estimated kernel is about 4 km, suggesting
that most transmission probably occurred through the movement of animals,
personnel or vehicles, rather than through animal contact or windborne
What they describe does not sound like "local spread" to me! And what we
saw happen here in Devon was commonly a "jump" of 4 miles and more between
infected premises. So I am intrigued by the DEFRA figures - I'd love to see
this data but I guess you can't help me there? Frankly, any layman could
look at the map of IP's and deduce that nothing like 79% were next door to
each other. I have the Devon map beside me now and the dots are spread out
all over the place. Yes, there are clusters where several farms may adjoin,
but 79% . . . . . no way.
However, this rather misses the point made by my correspondent - that NO
spread at all has taken place from these antibody -positive flocks, either
when they were first infected, and therefore infectious, nor subsequently
over several months. How can this be? It simply does not sit with all the
claims that are made about disease transmission, irrespective of the means.
Any comments on this aspect, please?
And Andrew's response:
You got me there, Alan!
As you will have appreciated by now, my comments tend to be very much
off-the-cuff. I skated over the paper by Anderson's group, because they
didn't cover the issue of vaccination. The relevant text from the paper by
the other group, Keeling et al, reads: "This contagion is quatified by the
spatial infection kernel of the disease (2) (Fig 1B) - after the
introduction of movement restrictions in late February the kernel shows a
high probability of local spread, with a tail of less of less frequent
longer range 'sparks' of infection." I have printed off a copy of the paper,
and it is in the mail to you. Fig 1B, as you will see, shows most infections
occurring over a distance of a small fraction of a km. I can't say what the
median distance is, but these authors see only a very small chance of
transmission beyond 4 km. So there does, indeed, seem to be an inconsistency
between the "kernels" (whatever they are) of the two modelling groups. As it
happens, I had lunch today with a biostatistician colleague at Compton, our
main laboratory. He works on TSE epidemiology and hadn't got around to
studying either FMD paper, but he had heard about inconsistencies between
the two models. I don't think it is appropriate for me to comment.
Hopefully, someone will go on-record with a correction to reconcile them.
All I can say is that (1) we research scientists are trying to make a living
like everyone else, and (2) because our work tends to be, by definition,
new, it is prone to errors and inaccuracies, which (3) get picked up when a
competing researcher comes up with a different result. That is the great
discipline under which my profession operates. Perhaps the most important
lesson, for the time being, is that both teams of modellers predicted that a
contiguous cull was vital, and in retrospect still think they were right.
As for the point about the failure of antibody-positive flocks to pass the
disease to neighbours: I gave the answer I did, because the target of your
correspondent was the contiguous cull policy. It can be very misleading to
rely on "anecdotal" evidence. There are a lot of possibilitites. That
particular experience may be down to pure luck. Or it may be that there
aren't many cattle in the area, and that, in a region populated by sheep
only, the disease tended to die out (as we know it does). Notwithstanding
the points I made in my last message, it may be that the contiguous cull
policy could be refined to e.g. ONLY culling 'contiguous' cattle (and
leaving the sheep alone), or refined according to more subtle criteria of
stock density. I still like the Keeling model and believe that "BROADLY
speaking" what was done was for the best (for farmers!!!) according to the
best information and advice available at the time. What I don't quite
understand, yet anyway, is why the theoretical basis for the policy could
not have been devised BEFORE the 2001 epidemic on previous experience. I
still look forward to the verdict of the government Inquiries.
Our comment: Alan will be replying in detail to this once he has studied
the Keeling et al paper but for tonight, we draw your attention to the
following facts. Andrew has now accepted that a) the disease dies out
naturally in sheep flocks if there are no cattle to amplify and spread the
virus; and b) if contiguous culling is to be the control method employed,
the optimum strategy is to slaughter the cattle only, leaving the sheep
alive. Just pause to consider that this stands completely opposite to the
government's "refined" strategy of sparing some cattle but slaughtering all
sheep! Andrew has moved his position a very long way during the long course
of this correspondence although he remains, as you can see, convinced that
the contiguous cull "worked" because of the computer model "predictions".
Alan has now sent him his critical analysis of the Anderson models as the
next stage of his argument!
from the Warmwell website:
Nov 4 ~ ''We can do better than this in treating a foot-and-mouth disease
was the conclusion, reported in USA Today, by the Infectious Disease Society
of America at a lecture in which slides of the pyres of destroyed British
livestock were shown. ''We can have a vaccine that we can use widely that
doesn't disrupt economic consequences of the meat supply.'' USDA, the
uncompromisingly named United States Department of Agriculture, doesn't seem
to share our government's shyness about the whole subject of
vaccination:''We have active research as it relates to vaccinations for
foot-and-mouth disease, as well as technology that could better detect
Christopher Booker's Notebook
By Christopher Booker
After the slaughter comes the Bill to make it legal
THE most startling aspect of the Animal Health Bill, which no one seems to
have noticed, is that it confirms that the Government acted illegally during
the foot and mouth crisis in ordering millions of healthy animals to be
The Bill, which the Government hopes to rush into law by early next year,
tacitly recognises that there was no legal power to order the destruction of
these animals under the "contiguous cull".
The Bill contains two astonishing features. The first is that it grants
powers more arbitrary and draconian than state officials have ever been
given in Britain before. In the name of eliminating foot and mouth or any
other disease, they are given right of entry to any premises, to kill any
animal they wish, including cats and dogs.
Animal owners are deprived of any legal right to question or challenge such
decisions. Indeed, they can be ordered by officials, on pain of prosecution,
to provide assistance in any way that the officials want; so that, on paper,
even refusing to make tea for an official could be deemed a criminal offence
The Bill's other remarkable feature is that it confirms that when, in March,
the former Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Maff) launched its
contiguous cull scheme, under which more than three million animals were
killed simply because they were on farms within "three kilometres" of an
infected premises, it did not have the legal power to do so.
The Animal Health Act 1981 clearly states that officials can kill animals
only where there is proof that they are either diseased or have been exposed
to infection. EU law, under directive 85/511, is even stricter, ruling that
animals can be culled only when already infected.
It was these laws which Maff deliberately ignored in ordering its contiguous
cull, supported by Professor Roy Anderson's Imperial College computer model.
Indeed, whenever animal owners challenged the legality of the contiguous
cull, Maff found some way to back down.
An Exeter solicitor, Alayne Addie, confirmed last week that, when she
challenged Maff on more than 200 occasions, it was clear that the last thing
the ministry wanted was to have its policy tested in court. When the case of
Grunty, the film-star pig, did come before the High Court in June, Mr
Justice Harrison ruled that the ministry had no power to order a blanket
slaughter policy. Each case must be assessed individually.
It is precisely this wholesale breaching of the law that the Department of
the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is now seeking to circumvent, by
granting its officials the powers which until now the law has not given
This was justified last week by the Defra minister Elliott Morley, who
outraged lawyers, farmers and vets by claiming as "a fact" that attempts to
challenge the legality of the cull had helped prolong the epidemic. Miss
Addie points out that in only one of the 200 cases she fought did the
animals subsequently develop the disease. Mr Morley has been challenged to
produce a single piece of evidence to support his claim.
Not the least controversial aspect of Mr Morley's new law (available via
www.warmwell. com; see story below) is that it proposes to give police-state
powers to the very officials who have so conspicuously abused the powers
that they already have over the past seven months. Miss Addie argues that,
by denying animal owners any right of appeal, the Bill is in clear breach of
the Human Rights Act.
Despite the storm of protest it is arousing, Mr Morley will have little
problem getting it nodded through by MPs. But since it was not announced in
either the Labour manifesto or the Queen's Speech, the Lords are entitled to
throw it out. Opponents now look to an all-party alliance of peers to do so.
Copies of my Not the Foot and Mouth Report are available from newsagents, or
from Private Eye on 020 7228 6457.
Download on the lowdown on farm crisis
THE foot and mouth epidemic was the first national crisis in which, in terms
of circulating a mass of vital information, a key part has been played by
the internet. Several regular websites proved useful, but for thousands
trying to follow this crisis, easily the most valuable, by posting a
complete daily press summary, scientific and veterinary papers and all kinds
of other data, has been www.warmwell.com.
Only last week, as a regular visitor, did I discover the extraordinary fact
that this highly professional site was run single-handedly by an English
teacher living in France. A year ago Mary Critchley moved with her laptop
and two dogs to a farmhouse north of Bordeaux, to teach local people
She set up a chatty website on www.englishin france.com, to keep friends
back home in touch with her daily doings. In April, she was so horrified by
the vain battle of a farmer friend in Scotland to save his pedigree sheep
from destruction that she decided to switch attention to the foot and mouth
crisis, to provide reliable information on what was happening.
Mrs Critchley fast became familiar with all the key issues the Government
wished to suppress, from the scientific case for vaccination to the
illegality of the contiguous cull. Spending many hours a day with her
laptop, next to a French vineyard 400 miles from Britain, she was soon
keeping Devon farmers, Cumbrian vets, even journalists in Somerset, au fait
with all that was happening.
Not surprisingly, warmwell.com (derived, Mary confesses, from "warm
welcome") was last week dominated by the wave of informed outrage greeting
the Government's Animal Health Bill (see main story). She hopes to keep her
site open "as long as this awful battle continues".
from Alan & Rosie