Protection for British Livestock and Farmers

Barry Wilson wrote in last month's " British Dairying"

The NFU's said
~ that vaccination didn't work (untrue),
~ that meat and milk from vaccinated animals had to be segregated, (untrue),
~ that vaccination would prolong the epidemic (probably the reverse);
~ that Maff didn't have enough vaccine (untrue) or sufficient resources (untrue)
~ Lastly the NFU's say that farmers are opposed to vaccination.
This is probably still true, but it's mainly because the NFU's have brainwashed farmers into believing their black propaganda.
A truly extraordinary story. But let's hope the lessons have been learnt.

I make no apologies for returning to the subject of FMD and the vexed question of vaccination if only because there is an extraordinary level of cloak and dagger conspiracy to secrecy that is distinctly unhealthy.

I know many vets, consultants and officials who know that vaccination is the solution but are too frightened to say so for fear of losing friends and clients.

I spoke recently to a maff official and said: "my inquiries suggest that, faced with a crisis on this scale, the Germans and most of the continental s would vaccinate"

"Well they would, wouldn't they," he replied contemptuously.

So the truth is out: it's a virility symbol. The Americans would vaccinate too- they actually did some scenario planning last year and came to this conclusion. Given the choice, the Americans will always go for the 'modern' option, Britain, it seems, will always go for the ancient, primitive option.

One thing is already clear. This is the last time any country, anywhere, (including Britain), will resort to slaughter to deal with FMD. Limited slaughter yes, as the French did this time. But if it's not controlled in a few days, then the policy will be to vaccinate, as the Dutch did, apparently successfully.

Prof. Fred Brown, who was in charge of controlling the small outbreak on the Isle of Wight in 1981, and who is now considered the world leading FMD expert, based in the US, revealing that Maff spurned help in the early days of the crisis said: " It's all very sad. Vaccination is a success story."

There is no doubt that the anti vaccination policy was imposed on the country by the NFU. In the 6th week of the epidemic, the OIE in Paris privately reported that Maff had recruited teams of vaccinators, and that vaccination would start in the next week.

Two weeks later, the Prime Minister held a big meeting at Chequers at which the food processors and the main super markets were told by the chief vet,Jim Scudamore, and chief scientist David King, that the outbreak was out of control and that vaccination in the hot spots of Devon and Cumbria was the preferred option; vaccination would start the week after Easter. But it didn't, because the NFU's of England Scotland and Wales mobilized their battalions and the Govt. backed off.

There are two questions here. (1) why did Tony Blair allow the NFUs to run this show when they clearly represented a vested interest here? No one will admit this publicly but everyone knows privately that the levels of compensation, certainly for beef and sheep producers, have been absurdly generous. Ewes have been paid out at #90 when their market value was a lot less than 1/3 of this. There have been some losers, certainly, those with animals which couldn't be sold under 30 months, and some who have failed to get into the welfare scheme, but some who have had animals accepted into the welfare slaughter have done very well indeed.

Now, saying this will not make me very popular. But lets face some unpalatable facts. What would have been the policy of the NFU's if we had a policy like that in the Netherlands- where they obviously had well thought out contingency plans, and are very commercial - where under law, farmers have to contribute the first £300million of FMD compensation themselves. Dutch dairy producers, for example, will now be levied at a rate of 0.4pence per litre on milk for the next 4 years to pay their share of the fmd compensation, and their problems have been tiny by comparison. I think we may now be sure that no future govt. will allow the NFU's to dictate policy with an open ended Govt. compensation commitment; industry levies are already under discussion.

(2) The second question I still can't find an answer to is why the NFU's have been opposed to any alternative to slaughter (except the cynical cash explanation above). I can only conclude that they too are locked into the past: The NFU's now accept that maintaining FMD free status is no longer a priority. (UK meat exports will be dead for some time whatever happens). The NFU's said that vaccination didn't work (untrue), that meat and milk from vaccinated animals had to be segregated, (untrue), that vaccination would prolong the epidemic (probably the reverse); that Maff didn't have enough vaccine (untrue) or sufficient resources (untrue) Lastly the NFU's say that farmers are opposed to vaccination. This is probably still true, but it's mainly because the NFU's have brainwashed farmers into believing their black propaganda. A truly extraordinary story. But let's hope the lessons have been learnt.