Monday, 15 October 2007

New FMD case in East Sussex?

The news of yet another 3 kilometre Temporary Zone, this time centred on Beckley and Peasemarsh in East Sussex, could not have come at a crueller time. If the suspected sheep prove to be positive then bang goes the lifting of the restrictions so desperately awaited on Wednesday.

The DEFRA site just baldly points the way to its new Declaration in which, in the inimitable language and tone we have had to expect from DEFRA "keepers of a susceptible animal in the Zone"... "shall take all such steps as are necessary to prevent it from straying from the premises on which it is kept..." has put a slightly enlarged and clearer map of the new temporary zone here.

The BBC - which seems to get information long before anyone else, says that the:

"3km foot-and-mouth temporary control zone has been put in place around premises in East Sussex. It follows a veterinary assessment of suspected signs of the disease in sheep. Tests are in progress on livestock at the site near Rye.

The government had planned to lift the movement ban in low-risk foot-and-mouth areas on 17 October. The plan also to lift the Surrey foot-and-mouth protection zone was dependent on no further outbreaks."
If this proves to be a positive case will anyone still dare to suggest that the non-vaccination gamble paid off?

And now for some hot air...

DEFRA says methane emissions from dairy cattle should be reduced by 60 per cent within 15 to 20 years while refrigeration of fresh milk should be phased out:
"Officials at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs have made a serious proposal that consumers switch to UHT (Ultra-High Temperature or Ultra-Heat Treated) milk to reduce greenhouse gas emissions"
explains Valerie Elliott in The Times this morning.

Michael Greaves, who alerted us to this, comments that it is yet another "example of the Kafkaesque world inhabited by DEFRA". Valerie Elliott quotes Ionwen Lewis, President of the Women's Food and Farming Union: "We are very privileged in this country to be drinking fresh pasteurised milk..." and this is very true.

In France, for example, fresh milk tended only on to be on sale where there were enough British immigrants to make it worthwhile but many of the French are now buying it too. The dairy adviser at the NFU says the DEFRA target could be achieved only by destroying half the national dairy herd. The Chairman of the NFU’s dairy board, Gwyn Jones' comment:

"I believe there are people inside the Government who are trying to destroy our industry. Here we are in the middle of fighting two diseases and this pops up from Defra. You have to wonder what is going on if our own people are plotting against us.."
Conspiracy? Or an insensitivity and incompetence of such breadth and depth that it amounts to the same thing.

More than hot air: One cannot help thinking about the discharges of intestinal gas - somewhat more of a threat to the ozone layer than the cows - produced by the human population of the UK . A mass cull perhaps? The excess population - especially the obese - could be turned into biofuel in a final solution for their welfare. Several of DEFRA's irritating little problems would disappear in one fell swoop.

"a fair number of these tough, resilient men tell me that they have had enough..."

An article today in the Herald warns that hill farmers in Scotland, men well able to withstand one of the harshest environments in Europe, are not going to be able to withstand the ravages of Bluetongue if it become endemic. They are talking about giving up. And, as the article predicts, (and not only in Scotland of course) if hill farming dies out there will be "one of the biggest environmental and demographic disasters yet".

Many will remember the miserable (and tragically unnecessary) Brecon Beacon cull of hefted sheep in 2001. Hefted sheep know their area and their shepherds are highly skilled. When this knowledge goes, it goes for ever. Bluetongue is not going to go. Without a vaccine it will become endemic and the ancient skills of the hill farmers are going to be lost. And BTV-8 vaccine production at Merial is still languishing under the intransigent command of DEFRA.

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