Bert Bruins has asked us to send out a reminder of the conference on The
Future of Farming after FMD:
A conference organised by the South West Green Party
Friday 26 October
St Leonards Church, Topsham Road, Exeter
from 10.30 AM
Caroline Lucas MEP will speak, plus Pippa Woods of the Family Farms
Association, and farmers who have been directly affected by the government's
To book or for more info contact Bert Bruins on 01363 772939 email:
or Rhea Gala on 01363 866414
Simon sends this snippet:
From an architect came the following.
Architects are being asked to tender for a new #200 million lab for DEFRA
And some more thoughts:
Re this BSE scandal and the slaughter of the National flock. Is this the
reason for the expensive pits that have been built around the country,
unused and there just in case? We understand from local information that
lorry loads of straw and sleepers have been going into Predannick airfield
on the Lizard. Have been to look but can't get on as it's MOD property and
used for training by RNAS Culdrose.
We wonder now if the cases we are hearing about where sheep with
blisters, lesions and temperatures are being allowed movement licences are
being left because they will help the FMD to keep going and then they can
get rid of these poor creatures when it has spread everywhere once again. If
they can't have BSE they may as well stick with FMD. Why are this ignorant
Govt hell bent on the destruction of sheep?
Regards Simon and Pam.
From Mary at the Warmwell website:
Please visit http://www.warmwell.com/cardorder.html if you would like to
support the appeal for emergency winter feed by buying a set of cards and
envelopes. They are very suitable for Christmas cards.
The design and printing costs of these monochrome drawings of Dales sheep
have been donated by ourselves and anyone who buys a set can be sure that
their money will all go to the fund. The cost per pack of five (all
different) is #3.50 which includes postage...or #15.00 for five sets.
Roger sent this response to the BSE-in-sheep fiasco:
You are right; the BSE in sheep mix up is serious. I continually make the
point that chemical and tissue culture tests tell us very different
things. Below is a letter I have sent to the FSA
The Food Standards Agency
Yesterday on Radio 4 I heard the head of the Agency Professor Krebs of the
FSA say that he is in favour of chemical tests for BSE in sheep. This was
his response to mistakes made by the Institute of Animal Health in Edinburgh
in the original tests and the recommendations of Professor Roy Anderson. The
reason given was that chemical tests are quicker.
Anderson is a mathematician and epidemiologist. He may not be fully aware
that a chemical test in a laboratory although quick and so producing lots of
results for him to analyse cannot confirm infectivity.
It has been accepted for over 100 years that growing the suspected agent in
vitro, that is live tissue, is necessary as part of any proof of
infectivity. (Koch's postulates.)
It may be possible to find the same chemical in sheep brains as is found in
BSE cows. BSE is assumed to be infectious and to be the cause of CJD in
humans. The FSA will then conclude that sheep are a risk and the government
will, as usual, over -react, and order all sheep to be killed.
I advise you to repeat the failed tests and not give in to pressure from Roy
Anderson to do quick chemical tests that suit his work and may have
disastrous results for the rest of us.
It is important not to rush into trying to correct one mistake by making a
While on the same subject, Betty forwarded this news report:
How did top scientists mix up brains from cattle and sheep?
By Steve Connor Science Editor
20 October 2001 Internal links Labour 'buried report of BSE inquiry'
The mystery of how a world-class team of scientists could have spent nearly
years and #217,000 mistakenly testing cow brains instead of sheep brains for
signs of BSE deepened yesterday.
The study was meant to assess whether bovine spongiform encephalopathy had
infected sheep at the end of the 1980s when they were fed the same
feed as cattle, but the results have now been declared uninterpretable
On a scale of laboratory blunders the error ranks about as high as they
given that the fate of Britain's 40 million sheep might have rested on its
Finding BSE in sheep could have led to the culling of the entire national
How scientists could have confused brain material from cattle and sheep is
the subject of two inquiries, one by the Institute for Animal Health, the
funded laboratory where the research was done, and another by the Department
for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), which funded the study.
Both inquiries will attempt to explain how two tests early in the experiment
appeared to confirm that the material was the mashed-up brains of sheep
third, more definitive test, which was made public on Wednesday night, found
bovine brain and no evidence of sheep brain at all.
The roots of the story lie in an experiment conceived and run at the height
BSE epidemic in the late 1980s and early 1990s. At that time, scientists
know what effect different meat-rendering practices would have on the
agents behind both BSE and scrapie, a similar brain disease of sheep.
During 1990, scientists from the Government's Central Veterinary Laboratory
Weybridge, Surrey, collected the diseased brains of more than 800 cows with
to "pool" the material and test how it would survive different rendering
second phase of the study took place over the next two years when 2,860
sheep affected by scrapie were collected by 18 veterinary laboratories
country and pooled for a similar rendering experiment.
Material left over from both these experiments was frozen and stored. Not
1996, when the link was established between BSE and a variant of human
Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD), did scientists think the stored sheep
might be useful in answering another question: could BSE have got into
There has always been a theoretical possibility that BSE infected sheep.
Laboratory experiments show the agent can be transmitted through feeding and
some sheep were known to have eaten the same BSE-contaminated feed as
The big question is whether infection had actually happened in the late
before measures were fully enforced to ban the feeding of ruminant- derived
to ruminants such as sheep and cattle. Realising that they had a store of
brains from the early 1990s, scientists suggested "testing" this material
However, a possible complication was that the pooled sheep brains may have
been cross-contaminated with infected cattle brains. Both sets of brains
removed by veterinary scientists in the same centres using the same
and surgical slabs.
With cross-contamination a possibility, the Institute for Animal Health and
Central Veterinary Laboratory did two sets of tests to see whether the
which looks like porridge - was fundamentally ovine rather than bovine in
Professor Chris Bostock, the institute's director, said one test involved
the presence of the amino acid arginine at "position 171" on the molecules
prion protein present in the sample. The "arginine 171" signature is unique
sheep and the test proved positive, he said. The Central Veterinary
also unable to detect bovine material. "This was psychologically good news
as contamination was concerned," Professor Bostock said.
Convinced that the pooled material was largely if not entirely sheep brains,
complicated experiment took place within the institute's neuropathogenesis
Edinburgh, the research centre that did the work proving the link between
vCJD. The research involved injecting the pooled brain material into
strains of laboratory mice, which incubate the disease in a precise pattern
depending on whether it is scrapie or BSE. The object was to see if the
had died with "scrapie" were in fact suffering from BSE.
Preliminary results of the experiment were sent to the Food Standards
which issued a statement two months ago to coincide with a separate
the sheep industry to boost the consumption of lamb. The agency warned there
was still a "theoretical risk" of BSE infecting sheep and said early results
experiment involving the pooled brains from the early 1990s "could be
with BSE having been in sheep at that time".
Professor Bostock, who was on a holiday when the agency made its statement,
was not happy. He said at the time: "I personally think that it is
unhelpful to start discussing results until they are complete and in the
domain in a way that everyone can see what we are talking about."
The issue of possible cross-contamination had still not been resolved so
organised independent DNA tests of the brain material, which began in
September. The results were unequivocal: the material was entirely bovine
trace of sheep tissue. "Extraordinary," declared Professor Peter Smith of
Government's spongiform encephalopathy advisory committee. Professor Bostock
said he was "flabbergasted".
One possibility being investigated is that the pool of cattle brains
collected in 1990
was confused with the pool of sheep brains collected two years later.
Professor Bostock said: "There has to be an explanation for this
have to wait to see what [it] is."
Meanwhile, we are still no nearer to knowing whether BSE has infected sheep
Richard forwarded this report in similar vein:
SHEEP TESTS BLUNDER - `LABORATORY MIXED UP SAMPLES'
220843 OCT 10
By Andrew Woodcock, Political Correspondent, PA News
Scientists looking for BSE in sheep brains suspected that their samples had
been contaminated by cow tissue almost a year ago, but were wrongly
reassured by a Government laboratory, it was said today.
A four-year study into whether sheep could contract BSE was abandoned last
week after the contamination was discovered, halting a process which could
otherwise have led to the destruction of the entire British flock.
Professor Chris Bostock, who headed the study, today denied that the mix-up
was his fault and said that the laboratory had now e-mailed him to admit
that it was to blame.
He contacted the Veterinary Laboratory Association last year after becoming
concerned at the possibility that the samples he was working on had been
contaminated, he said.
But the VLA gave the samples the all-clear last December, allowing Professor
Bostock to go on and issue a warning that sheep may have contracted mad cow
It was only after his programme collapsed in disarray last week that the
laboratory admitted that it had mixed the samples up and that the samples on
which he was working were in fact from cows, he told the BBC Radio 4 Today
Professor Bostock said his team was reassured by the laboratory's initial
finding last year.
"They reported that in their sample of this material they had been unable to
find any evidence of bovine material being present at a reasonable level,"
His team had been concerned, not that the brain tissue they had might have
come in its entirety from cows, but that it might have become tainted with a
small amount of bovine material.
"To be told that they couldn't find any cow material was reassuring," he
"It wasn't until Friday afternoon that I received a message from the VLA to
say that they had been testing a completely different pool of sheep brains
and they had misled us into thinking that their work was related to the pool
of brains we were using."
The Government's Chief Veterinary Officer, Jim Scudamore, said the mistake
had been spotted before it led to potentially catastrophic action.
"Obviously, there has been a number of mistakes in this, which have been
quite critical," he told the same programme.
"One thing we are having is an independent audit that is going to have a
look at everything.
"It's going to have to follow the material right through and check the audit
trail from the time the brains were collected to today, so that we can see
where we are and what we have got.
"The system has got to be looked at, the audit trail, the sample handling
process, the record-keeping, to see what happened with the system and what
can be done in the future to stop it happening again."
He added: "The mistakes appear to be in the way the samples were recorded
and handled in this case.
"To put it in perspective, this is material collected in 1990. It's a long
time it's been held in the laboratory."
Visitors to the Warmwell website may have seen the E-mail message from a
Cornish farmer - this is Didi and here she adds yet more detail:
Dear Alan and Rosie,
Nick and I have just been through a few very difficult days dealing with
some total retards at Cornwall's DEFRA office in Truro. I got so angry that
I sent an email to the Smartgroup's F&M chatline which Mary has put on the
Warmwell inbox. Today, Saturday, we have watched in total amazement, a
clay pigeon shoot being held in the field on the otherside of our valley.
This field belongs to a close friend and neighbour who lost his animals as
he was contiguous and a dangerous contact ( he was in the building with the
F&M heifers. It took MAFF vets three days to decide whether the heifers had
the disease.) This neighbour has done his cleansing but is still on a Form
A as he has not yet restocked. The F&M farm in the next field has not
restocked either. Nick and I watched in amazement as about thirty men plus
various dogs and vehicles plus small marquee! had their clay pigeon shoot.
I should think that there is a high likelihood, given the area which we live
in, that most of the people were farmers. Aren't they worried about F&M
anymore? Does the fact that DEFRA declared Cornwall F&M free two weeks ago
make them think there is no risk anymore? Is it so important to shoot at
orange diner plates flying through the air, that these farmers are prepared
to risk the lives of their cattle and sheep, and those of their neighbours?
On another subject. Recently the content of your newsletter has become more
and more political. Not surprising.... DEFRA, Margaret Beckett and her
"attitude", no public inquiry, no public interest in what has happened etc.
I would like to point out to you a similar Government policy carried out
with the same attitude as Tony Blair's DEFRA henchmen.
I was brought up in Hong Kong (1957 to 1967). In 1967 my Mother and I left
Hong Kong, leaving my father behind to run his property business. We left
because of the riots caused by the Cultural Revolution which was sweeping
through China. Part of Chairman Mao's '67 revolution was that all pets,
mainly dogs and pet caged birds which the chinese have valued for their
singing abilities for thousands of years ( hence the beautiful bird cages
they made ), were killed by the infamous Red Guard. In a matter of a few
weeks every single "pet" in China was killed. The reasoning behind this
edict from Chairman Mao was that people should care about "The Party", it
should be the most important thing in their lives, not their pets. Prior to
that, Mao had another policy over sparrows. There was a terrible famine in
China caused by a long drought and exacerbated by the commune system. Mao
announced that the sparrows were to blame....they were eating all the grain.
He announced that ALL the sparrows in the whole of China must be killed. I
sometimes wonder if Tony Blair is taking notes from Chairman Mao?
best wishes Didi
ps I read somewhere that Margret Beckett has a prized shoe
collection( Emelda Marcos watch out). If I was Mrs Beckett I would forget
about the flashy red high heel shoe look, and try the "paper bag over head"
Tom sends his thoughts:
If brains were gunpowder, he would not have enough to blow his hat off. A
good saying which has come to mind because it is reported today that
scientists have spent 5 years testing cattle brains in the mistaken belief
that they were actually testing sheep brains. I can scarcely believe that
such a basic howler has been made. In the light of this, it seems we should
actually be testing human brains where they belong to scientists, for signs
of intelligent life. They have shown very little intelligence so far in
their understanding of how FMD works and is spread. I despair.
From the Warmwell website:
Oct 22 ~ The Strange 'Case' of Kirkbride
Suspect case at Wedholme House Fm, Moss Side, Kirkbride A correspondent
writes: "I'm told that Defra shot 5 or 6 cows on initial visit, then came
back with a slaughter team on the afternoon/evening of Wednesday 17th. and
dispatched 300+ beef cattle. Mr. T (we know but are not publishing the
farmer's full name nor that of his neighbour) was to have provided cattle to
restock a farm at Wigton for a Mr. D. Farmer gossip has it that Mr. D had
had a battle with Defra over C&D (disinfecting) some tongue and groove
boarding. He refused to dismantle it (so they say). The locals also say that
in March, pigs were slaughtered out at Mr T's premises, but that NO C&D work
was undertaken afterwards. Defra are certainly trying to play this case
down - they announced on Radio Cumbria on the Thursday that they were
keeping the animals at Moss Side 'under surveillance', which wouldn't have
been difficult as they were in a big heap in the yard, very very dead. A
local newspaper reported the slaughter on Friday with statement from DEFRA
saying they expected results of tests either Sunday or Monday. 6 livestock
farms surround, and the area has been clear for 3 months."
Results were negative we see today.
Oct 22 ~ This email says what must be in the minds of many at the moment:
"We are wondering, now that the beans have been spilled re the test on
brains blunder, if this is the reason that Ashmoor pit in Devon was
and the reason why there have been " activities"on other disused airfields
around the country. Were these to be the burial grounds for all the Nation's
sheep? However now that all is revealed it is more than likely that these
poor creatures will have to go down with the second wave of FMD. Perhaps
that is why Defra are ignoring the reported lesions and blisters; they are
living in hope that these sheep will pass it on. We think the ideal
candidates for the brains test are the majority of this Govt, ...."
From the Yorkshire Post:
Controls lifted at 1,500 farms -
GOVERNMENT vets say it is too early to claim victory over foot and mouth
disease, but 21 days without any confirmed cases has allowed them to relax
severe restrictions on parts of North and West Yorkshire. The high
biosecurity "blue box" which was extended when the virus threatened to
spread out of Cumbria was contracted back to the county boundary yesterday -
removing the strict controls from 135 farms in North Yorkshire. Originally
the cordon extended from Penrith to Kirkby Stephen, but was enlarged after
foot and mouth disease was confirmed on September 26 in the village of
Barbon, a previously clean area close to the North Yorkshire boundary. In
total, more than 1,500 farms in Cumbria, Lancashire and Yorkshire will
benefit from the reduction of the so-called Penrith Spur in which the
Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has enforced a
rigorous cleaning and disinfecting regime since August 10. ....The weekend's
relaxation comes after Defra was able to confirm that cultures grown from
samples taken from 300 animals slaughtered on suspicion of having foot and
mouth on Wednesday at Wedholme Farm, Kirkbride, west of Carlisle, were
negative. Vets have taken blood samples from animals slaughtered on
suspicion at another farm near Carlisle and those results are still awaited.
But a Defra spokesman said they were optimistic of another negative result.
Our comment: Oh good, another negative result - from animals already
slaughtered, of course. But what does DEFRA's Ray Anderson have to say this
time? Does this negative result mean that there may still have been disease
present, so declaring an Infected Premises as at Barbon recently? No,
apparently it doesn't mean that this time, so we look forward with interest
to Ray's explanation of this contradiction.
From the Farmers Weekly:
22 October 2001
Two more years for sheep BSE probe
By Alistair Driver
FARMERS face more uncertainty after food safety officials admitted it could
take two years before it is known whether BSE is present in sheep.
Food Standards Agency chairman Sir John Krebs called on the government to
speed up its efforts to find out whether the disease has jumped to sheep.
His comments follow a four-year testing programme which collapsed because
scientists had been studying cow brains rather than sheep brains.
It could take two years before fresh experiments are completed, Sir John
told an agency board meeting in London on Monday (22 October).
"We have made it clear that more definite action with a definite timetable
needs to be taken by the government," he said.
Sir John said the government should fund more work on developing tests to
distinguish between BSE and scrapie in sheep.
During a lively board discussion, he admitted that it was still unclear what
exactly went wrong with the botched experiments.
The study of samples what were thought to be 3000 sheep brains had indicated
that up to 1% of the national flock was infected with BSE.
But a press statement published on a government website late last Wednesday
(17 October) admitted that the tests had been botched.
Scottish farmer and Food Standards Agency board member Michael Gibson said
it was fortunate officials had been told to cross-check the results.
"If we had not recommended these tests, we might have been pushing the panic
button on the entire national sheep flock," he said.
Our comment: This is the first report we have seen to put a figure on the
incidence of BSE found by the discredited experiments - one percent, not
much but enough to spark panic at government level.
Matt sent in this message, re. tonight's attachment:
just got an email from ministry giving some advice on mad cow, thought you
might be interested!
From Alan & Rosie