Friday, 12 October 2007

"a pretty shabby way to treat a national emergency"

Is Westminster going to rue the day it quietly airbrushed away an allocation of nearly £15 million in foot and mouth compensation for Scotland and Wales once it had been decided not to call an election?
Alex Salmond says, "This is a pretty shabby way to treat a national emergency. It flies in the face of the Prime Minister's rhetoric on facing the emergency of foot and mouth"
In Wales, Rural Affairs minister Elin Jones said the decision was "disappointing" adding that the costs of foot-and-mouth should be met by the UK government: "I hope the Treasury will accept its responsibility."

And the MP for Shewsbury,Daniel Kawczynski, was particularly unamused to see Gordon Brown "sitting through the debate smiling and laughing...totally inappropriate to an issue is of such gravity"
"We must all work together to ensure that the Government is held to account over this disaster and their wholly inadequate response to it."

Now that literally thousands of cattle destined for slaughter in the Bluetongue zone cannot cross the DEFRA imposed line to the abbatoirs, we are going to see meat shortages in the supermarkets. People will at last begin to notice that something in our green and pleasant land is deeply wrong. Although meat exports were allowed to resume today from areas considered at low risk from both FMD and Bluetongue - which excludes parts of south-east England and East Anglia, there are nevertheless so many exceptions to this that the volume of exports will not be great. The limited lifting of the export ban will come too late for producers of light lambs. They are in no fit condition to be processed and, even if they could be, the backlog could not be processed quickly enough.
From next Wednesday (October 17) the 20-day standstill rule is likely to be relaxed in the Low Risk foot-and-mouth area of England. That too will be a relief but within the Bluetongue zone things are dire.
An estimated 8,000 cattle inside the bluetongue control zone are normally killed for meat every week but within the zone there are only enough slaughterhouses to process 2,500. On the other side of the imaginary line abbatoirs are operating at only 25 per cent capacity because so many of the cattle they need are on the wrong side of the line.

DEFRA, as incarnated by Fred Landeg, has said that current control and protection zones will remain in place until the end of summer 2008 "at the earliest"

He is apparently closing his mind to the fact that bluetongue does not spread from animal to animal.
The Farmers Guardian quotes the National Beef Association vice-chairman, Frank Momber:

"Government seems to have no appreciation of just how many cattle are on big feeding units in the East of England and just how meagre the slaughter facilities are. It must, at the very least, allow finished cattle to be transported out of the BT zone for processing...."

Something must be done or farmers will go out of business in droves. Supermarkets will stock their empty shelves with cheap imports and, as Frank Momber says,

"a vital section of our national industry will be suffocated"

Rather than extending the zone the government should give permission for all movements directly to slaughter to be allowed outside the zone to the nearest abbatoirs.
(Update Late today Oct 12 DEFRA announced that movement outside the zone to slaughter will, after all, be allowed. See above.)
The French allow movements from any area in their bluetongue zone to slaughter "desinsectisation + abbatage dans les 48hrs" Clearly if this had been foolish their zone would have extended over the whole of France by now.

When midge activity stops in the colder weather,a few weeks at most, animals for breeding could be be allowed to be moved once blood tests have given a negative result for the BT virus.

it has been a costly and bloody gamble not to vaccinate - and madness not to use state-of -the -art diagnosis

But the costs of disease, like a hand grenade whose pin has been pulled out by Pirbright, is being tossed to the farmers. It is almost beyond belief that the "cost sharing" plan has not been shelved in deep embarrassment following the escape of virus from Pirbright. But no. We hear today that Kevin Pearce told the NFU council this week that although the consultation due for September had been suspended there will come a time when talks will resume. Many farmers think the farming industry should refuse to enter into talks until 'the polluter pays in full' for the damage caused by the Pirbright foot-and-mouth leak - and even then to expect the farmers not only to pay the piper but have a chaotic department like DEFRA calling the tune is a nonsense too far.

The very best plan we have seen to make shared costs and responsibility between government and farming actually work is one which involves proper bench marks to be adhered to by both sides. It can be read in full here

Since IP6, IP7 and IP8 had fresh disease present (FMD lesions discovered were only between 1 and 4 days old) one cannot be certain of anything and it has been a costly and bloody gamble not to vaccinate; it will not be forgetten that DEFRA announced that the virus had been contained after IP2 only to have it reappear on September 12.

This strain of the virus, 01 BFS1860, has produced such mild symptoms that many animals recovered before the slow UK tests showed they had had the disease. That has not prevented the killing of about 2000 animals, mostly negative post mortem. What is so hard to bear - quite apart from the vaccination question - is the fact that for six years the UK has ignored available rapid diagnostic on-site tests that can diagnose pre clinical disease. These portable, simple kits would have saved the healthy animals, including the hand-reared pet lambs culled out near IP8, and saved so much of the misery we'd hoped after 2001 never to see again.

The whole affair has highlighted yet again the fact that foot and mouth is a political and economic disease

No comments: