THE NATIONAL FOOT & MOUTH GROUP

An affiliation of organisations affected by 2001 UK epidemic

 

Co-ordinating Office: 3 The Common, Siddington, Cirencester, Glos GL7 6EY

Tel: 01285 644319 / 01285 656812

 

 

 

JOINT SUBMISSION FROM:

NATIONAL FOOT & MOUTH GROUP & VETS FOR VACCINATION

 

TO THE ENVIRONMENT, FOOD & RURAL AFFAIRS SELECT COMMITTEE & OTHER MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT

 

 

Dear Sirs

 

AMENDMENTS TO THE ANIMAL HEALTH BILL (39)

 

We would be grateful for your consideration of the following

 

1 We call upon the Government to justify the introduction of the proposed legislation. We submit there is no evidence to justify the draconian and punitive measures put forward in these amendments.

 

Members of both NFMG and Vets for Vaccination have been involved in opposing contiguous culls and know of no substantive evidence to demonstrate the claim that the appeals process, and those opposing culls, caused the disease to spread. Our experiences in The Forest of Dean, Welshpool Market, Gloucestershire, Somerset, Yorkshire, Mid Wales and elsewhere demonstrated no positive cases as a result of opposition to the cull. These are detailed below, together with the statistics of the cases dealt with by solicitors Burges Salmon and Alayne Addy.

 

Furthermore, in preventing the culling of healthy animals, the unnecessary costs of compensation, slaughter and disposal, cleansing and disinfecting, and other economic and socio-economic costs were avoided. Details below.

 

2 To proceed with this legislation prior to the submission of evidence to, and publication of, the findings of the Royal Society Inquiry, pre-empts the purpose and validity of the Inquiry. The scope of the Royal Society remit considers in great detail the issues of the extent and spread of the disease and the mechanisms of transmission. It is on the basis of the Inquirys findings that future legislation should be drafted.

 

3 If the Government is capable of providing hard evidence that those opposing the cull caused the disease to spread then it must also assess the spread of the disease as a result of the inadequate bio-security and bio-sanitary regime of the culling teams. The Government must demonstrate that it has accurately determined how the disease was spread by different vectors and mechanisms. It is not acceptable to conveniently scape-goat a perceived source.

 

4 In addition to producing firm evidence, facts and information to substantiate the Governments claim on the spread of disease from opposed culls, it is also necessary to present the scientific rationale to justify the imposition of this severe legislation. In particular, the justification for the 3km and contiguous culls was not, and is not, widely accepted by many FMD scientists. This is another issue that the Royal Society Inquiry is due to address and report on.

 

5 Given the incomplete nature of the laboratory tests carried out on both confirmed cases and those slaughtered as a result of the contiguous cull, 3km cull, slaughter on suspicion and dangerous contacts, it is not known how many premises actually ever had FMD. Clinical diagnosis alone is not reliable. With such incomplete records it is now not possible to accurately or definitively determine the agents of transmission, or how the disease was spread.

 

6 We understand that the proposed legislation is also in contravention of the Human Rights Act. We refer the Committee to representations made by others on this which we know have been sent to David Curry the Chairman, notably the submission from Mrs Mary Critchley, based on an opinion from Stephen Smith QC.

 

We append the following details to substantiate the points raised in the above letter.

 

We call upon the Chairman, Committee and MPS to ensure that the Government produces and publishes the relevant evidence to justify this legislation.

 

Yours sincerely

 

 

 

Janet Bayley

On behalf of National Foot & Mouth Group

 

Peter Woods

On behalf of Vets for Vaccination

 

 

 

APPENDIX OF SUPPORTING INFORMATION

 

 

1 No Evidence of Opposed Culls resulting in spread of FMD

 

In the Forest of Dean none of the 34 farms scheduled to be culled under the Contiguous cull policy proved positive when blood tested. Not one of the 34 farms had any animals that had been exposed to Foot & Mouth or contracted the disease. (18 farms were culled out before the Group's protests stopped the cull - all were negative when tested after slaughter - Elliot Morley eventually agreed to blood test the rest - they too were all negative.)

 

In the intended cull of animals as dangerous contacts from Welshpool Market, where local farmers refused to let their animals be killed, not one later proved positive.

 

In Wales at the Lloyds Farm, Pentresollars, Talgarth no animal proved positive.

 

At the Thomas Everard Farm in Somerset no animal proved positive

 

In Yorkshire of the 17 farms assisted by Val Sinclair, one was lost to a welfare cull, one to FMD being introduced by a dirty vet and two to Dangerous Contact when infected stock from another farm ran loose.

 

We understand from Burges Salmon, solicitors, that of the 9 cases that were taken to appeal  no positives were subsequently found. Of the 140 cases where their advice was sought only 2 subsequently proved positive.

 

In the cases dealt with by Alayne Addy, of the 200 cases she was involved in, only 1 went on to prove positive

 

Where we were involved in resisting the culls it was only on the basis that the farmer could demonstrate that he had undertaken rigorous bio-security and firmly believed that his stock was healthy and had not been exposed to the disease. See notes below.

 

 

2 Compensation and Incurred Costs of Contiguous and Other Culls

 

Two examples:

 

We understand that where 300 Cattle were saved at a farm in Gloucestershire this resulted in a financial saving in compensation alone of over #400,000

 

It is also our understanding that from DEFRAs own figures, for each farmer that

received compensation of less than #100,000, this resulted in costs to the taxpayer of circa one million pounds - arising from slaughter, disposal, cleansing, disinfecting, etc. (This figure came from DEFRA - mid way during the crisis.)

 

 

3 Basis of Opposing the Cull  as used by Forest of Dean Action Group and comments on proposed legislation with respect to action taken

 

Had this law applied at the time when the FoD FMD Action Group was actively supporting farmers and smallholders to protect their healthy animals, we would all have been acting illegally and the animals would all have been slaughtered.

 

When the FoD FMD Action Group was formed in April, one of our greatest concerns was that we protected only healthy animals. On this basis we took great care to assess the risk in each individual case according to reliable science that was widely available at the time, including:

 

AIRBORNE SPREAD - it was evident from early March that the risk of airborne spread was minimal. An animal had to be exposed at very close quarters to a source of infection to contract FMD.

 

MOUTH LESIONS - the classic FMD symptom, but which can also have numerous other causes, including animals eating brambles and thistles. The only reliable way to diagnose FMD is by blood testing.

 

INCUBATION PERIOD - at the very outside, this was 21 days from the time the animal was believed to have been exposed to the disease.

 

CONTIGUOUS CULL - a meaningless policy when applied to the random nature of field boundaries that occurred in the Forest, and throughout the country. A farm may share a boundary with another premises, but animals may be several hundred yards, or even miles, distant from those on a neighbouring farm. Only an 'on-the-ground' risk assessment carried out by local vets with knowledge of local conditions and geography could identify animals at risk. Similarly, the terms SLAUGHTER ON SUSPICION and DANGEROUS CONTACT are equally meaningless without actual evidence of the contact, which was never provided in the Forest of Dean.

 

However, under the new law, none of these considerations would have been taken into account, and all the animals under A Notice in the Forest would have been culled. Instead, the farmers and smallholders who held out for blood testing were vindicated, all their animals tested negative for any signs of disease.

 

In addition to the humanitarian issues, there is an economic point to be made. The cost of culling these animals, the compensation payments, the subsequent cleaning and disinfection of the farms, and the disposal costs would have amounted to something in the region of a #1.5 million bill to the taxpayer.

 

 

4 Lack of Firm Data to determine change of legislation and unreliability of Clinical Diagnosis

 

The Group has subsequently discovered that of the 2030 'confirmed cases' not all of these were tested either for antibodies or live virus. An even smaller percentage of the contiguous culls, 3km culls or slaughter on suspicion cases were actually subject to laboratory testing. Therefore it is not known by government scientists, or anybody else, exactly how many actual cases of FMD there have been.

 

Given the unreliability of clinical diagnosis, particularly in sheep, clinical diagnosis alone cannot be accepted. Dr Paul Kitching, former head of the Animal Health Institute at Pirbright, has repeatedly said that clinical diagnosis in sheep is totally unacceptable. For 'government scientists' to form their view on the basis of such incomplete data and information is therefore untenable, unsupportable and bad science.

 

Contacts:

 

Janet Bayley - NFMG 01285 644319 / 01285 656812

 

Peter Woods - Vets for Vaccination: 01452 523534 / 01452 520056

 

Roy Miller: 01743 884353 (Welshpool Market Cull)

 

Carole Young: 01594 564600 Forest of Dean FMD Action Group

 

 

NATIONAL FOOT & MOUTH GROUP

 

VETS FOR VACCINATION

 

NOVEMBER 2001