Antimedia

Vaccinate now – cull the NFU

I fear that one of Surrey’s finest herds of cattle is currently being exterminated. The herd of Aberdeen Angus has a distinguished pedigree but yesterday a couple of heifers seemed to have minor symptoms of lameness and the response seems to have been to kill them all. (I hope I am wrong and am doing more checks – but it is confirmed that they are killing more animals.)

Update: The herd being culled has been identified and is not the one I initially feared. More on this later. I still inclined to the view that this outbreak can be contained – but only if the government acts now to deploy its most effective weapon.

Waiting for animals to develop symptoms and then killing them is less effective as a means of preventing the spread of this illness than immediately ring vaccinating the affected area. The Dutch know this. The immunologists know it. It is rejected in Britain by a producer’s cartel who have created a situation where the taxpayer indemnifies them for their business risks and mass slaughter of healthy animals for cash is the raison d’etre of their business.

If the government will kill all the animals and pay for them then it saves all the costly business of feeding the beasts and selling them on the open market. Never mind that some do not want their animals killed, because they are used for milking, or for smaller-scale production aimed at local markets. Or that most of the animals killed are healthy. Or that even animals with foot and mouth can make full recoveries. Or that it is safe to eat vaccinated meat. And that tests can distinguish vaccinated animals from diseased ones.

In Britain this cartel is represented by the ill-named National Farmers Union which is not a union but an annex of the still deeply sinister Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. This perverse relationship has profoundly damaged the British countryside in the past and threatens to do so again.

The NFU agribusiness cartel spent yesterday demanding slaughter using the code words “stamping out” to describe taking healthy animals and killing them in a field, a process to be followed by the dispatch of large checks. And the horror is that once again the NFU is getting what it wants, popping in to Downing Street, appearing next to the chief vet at Defra news conferences, and being treated by 95% of our moronic media as the only authentic spokesman for the countryside.

So, we are back to slaughter on suspicion and the killing of dangerous contacts. No disease even needs to be proven. And the indicators of scandal continue to shoot into the red zone.

There turns out to be a history of biosecurity failures at Pirbright. The place is falling apart and a hugely expensive refurbishment project is supposed to be starting now. Yet only now is a serious independent examination getting underway of the biosecurity at Pirbright.

Oddly, this strategic national laboratory seems to exist without the slightest oversight by anyone, as far as I can tell. I doubt that Waverley borough council has a clue how to regulate class 4 biosecurity laboratories. This statement is not correct. As a later story makes more precise, Defra seems to be responsible for some of this and the HSE for other parts. It is still rather opaque how this surveillance has worked in practice and the evidence suggests it has not worked at all.

It seems that Pirbright have just received planning permission for all sorts of schemes but none of this has been covered in the Surrey Advertiser as far as I can tell, nor would it be, it not being the dream of estate agents to sell costly mansions on the doorstep of a hazardous biochemical research park.

So here we are and after years of arguing for a scientific approach to disease rather than a commercial one in which an illness is elevated to an economic crisis, the situation is the perfect scenario for vaccination. The specific virus is known. The vaccine is in stock. There is currently just one cluster of disease hence a ring vaccination scheme can be implemented with high confidence.

Not vaccinating is more than negligent it is stupid and vastly increases the chance this disease will spread. I suppose the NFU doesn’t really care because the suits who run it will just get more and bigger checks, and they never see the animals, anyway. I sggest that an NFU “member” who disagrees open his books.

Small farmers are ignored by the NFU (although it takes their money, persuading them by its clever marketing that it is an authentic countryside voice.) But of course these “country” members are entirely unrepresented when it comes to the big decisions.)

The stupidity of journalists like the one on CNN yesterday who repeated the lie that vaccination hides the disease is very probably attributable to the mendacious briefings offered by the government, the NFU and the NFU thugs and fellow-travellers who control certain Internet news groups (such as U.K. Business Agriculture, the nastiest place on the net).

These people conceal their real interests and character-assassinate those who have advocated putting a scientific approach ahead of the compensation cheques. It is a scandal that farmers get compensated for illness. Nobody else does. It is a scandal that the NFU has exercised a veto on policy. It is a tragedy that Gordon Brown cannot see any of this. You do not need to be a vegetarian to know that killing a child’s healthy pet goat is wrong. Or that individuals should have the right to choose vaccination for their own animals, in preference to a disgusting policy of exterminating precious animals, domestic or commercial, on the whim of some vet (another unjustly deified profession).

The entire annual meat export trade is worth less than one block trade in the city of London. British agribusiness, such as it is, is actually pretty feeble, and pretty often vile (who is for a Turkey from one of Bernard Matthew’s sheds?) When are we going to get real about agriculture and stop allowing privileged producers to raid the Treasury?

I live in the country and  drink at the pub with people who farm. We are making hay in our meadows right now. Many of these farmers are friends. But I don’t ask them to send me a cheque when I have writer’s block. If they are worried about foot and mouth they should buy insurance, or vaccinate. Why is this a problem?

The calculation of ministers, armed with their new media skills, is that what the public doesn’t see, will not upset them. Hence the rush to keep the helicopters out of the sky. The BBC and Sky news had already self-censored the most graphic images of the last slaughter in which the Woolford cattle were shot down side-by-side, one by one in a makeshift pen. The cowardice, ineptitude and ignorance of the 24-hour news channels is a subject for continuing discussion. A hare-brained blonde on Sky explained they had censored their pictures to spare us distress. This, apparently, is news judgement at Sky – we will not be shown the truth, so that we may be spared distress. Only journalism rivals politics for its hypocrisy.

Anyway – no danger the viewers shall be distressed, the new air exclusion zone means all further images will be censored.

I am still somewhat confident this outbreak may be limited in size – even though there are serious questions when it really started. In a report on the OIE site the glamorous Debby Reynolds has apparently reported that the “Start date” was 29/07/2007. The 29th of July? But that was the Saturday before the Thursday evening when “symptoms were reported to the local Animal Health office”.

“Is this a mistake – or were symptoms actually noticed five days earlier? It matters,” notes the always on-target Warmwell, another battle-scared veteran of 2001!

The government is running out of time to show they have really learned any lessons from 2001.

Notably, Abigail Woods, a lecturer in the history of medicine at Imperial who was brilliant in 2001 at exposing the lies of the NFU and their lackeys, has returned to the fray in today’s Guardian, here.

I was travelling today and am now returned. I hear Sky News has once again covered itself in shit. The problem with Murdoch’s media is not their transparent self-interest but their mediocrity.

Check frequently with Warmwell for news updates.

Excellent Guardian FMD blog here run by Matthew Weaver, journo who may just “get it”. Matthew is doing a great job tracking the news. Indispensible.

6 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Jonathan Miller said, on August 7, 2007 at 4:24 pm

    Do not be fooled by NFU spokesmen saying they are not opposed to vaccination under suitable conditions – these conditions have never arisen and never will. The NFU is evil but not stupid – they know that to rule out vaccination altogether is not a good stance from a PR viewpoint. And in 2001 they took exactly the same position – all in favour of vaccination as long as it was never used. The NFU knows that is is exposed and is being very cautious. But do not believe a word they say on this subject until they come and and demand vaccination. This, I predict, is not going to happen and the second it did, there would be vaccination. The pitiful spectacle of Defra urtterly captured by the NFU suggests that you can take MAFF off the letterhead but you can’t take it out of the institutional DNA… alas.

  2. Jane Barribal said, on August 8, 2007 at 11:01 am

    Very funny and absolutely true!

    I cannot recount the number of farmers who’ve told mey they’ve cancelled their membership of the NFU since 2001!

    They are ‘exposed’ as you say and their power declining in the field although it seems to remain strong in the corridors of power, more’s the pity!

  3. Mark Siggers said, on August 8, 2007 at 11:29 am

    Since we surrendered control of domestic FMD strategy to Brussells in the 1980s (EC Directive 85/511) no doubt the puppets and poodles in London are waiting to be told when or if they can start vaccinating. But the EU will resist because, as I understand it, use of vaccines will cost it it’s “disease free” status and shut down the export markets from all EU territories.
    The sinister hand of the EU is everywhere in this – it was another of their poxy directives that banned on-farm burial of deadstock.

  4. Jane Barribal said, on August 10, 2007 at 2:53 pm

    Following the recent outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease, I have felt it essential that rather than slaughter infected and suspected livestock they should be vaccinated.

    However, there are two basic forms of emergency vaccination strategy to control Foot and Mouth Disease. The ‘vaccination-to-live’ policy whereby the animals live out their normal economic lives and their meat is then eaten; or the ‘vaccination-to-die’ strategy whereby animals around an infected farm are vaccinated to reduce the spread of infection and are then killed. The latter is quite unacceptable and I am sure that like myself, you would want them to be protected through a vaccination ‘to live’ policy.

    If you agree with me, please sign my petition to the Prime Minister which you will find here –
    http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/To-live-now/

    Please ask your friends to sign it too!

    Thank you!
    Jane Barribal – Farmtalking

  5. They reap as they have sown « said, on September 13, 2007 at 6:13 pm

    […] Once again, those of us who have since the 2001 débâcle been demanding vaccination have been ignored. Once again, we have been proved right. Had Defra ring vaccinated immediately following the original outbreak this summer, the cows now infected in the shadow of Windsor Castle would not be infected. I told you so. […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: