10 top things about foot and mouth

Happier days at Pirbright: The Surrey County Vaccine Farms

The 10 top things about FMD 2007.

10. Never mind the disinfectant, send the whitewash. A dramatic improvement in government media/presentational skill, mirrored by no raising of the game by editors, compared to 2001. See 8, 7 below.

9. Scientists are often psychotic, in the clinical sense meaning they have lost touch with reality. Any reality. Ground reality. System reality. Media reality. The award goes to Sir Brian Follett for his sagacity in the Sunday Times: “The reason we slaughter animals is because, in island countries, it works. We can keep the virus out.” A healthy debate in the bioscience community about vaccination would be welcome but it is so odd that those who obstruct vaccinations use arguments that are simply ludicrous and false.

8. Journalism in Britain is quite dramatically terrible as anyone can tell you when they observe the coverage of something they know plenty about. The absence of scientifically trained journalists is very apparent as it was in 2001. Rolling news channels by far the worst – torrents of drivel, 24 by 7. This is the syndrome that we saw with the media in the run-up to the war in Iraq. A dependence on authority to timetable events and establish the agenda, ignoring all contrary evidence or burying it on page 94. The BBC is consistently mediocre.

7. The media tropes are identical. Terrible disease. Tragedy for farmers. A threatened cow named Mabel in a petting zoo. The editors cover every big story by habit. This is why they prefer stories that “come back” so they can order the clips and cover them like last time. A dirty media secret is that editors do not like anything too new – they don’t understand it and have no precedent to inform their decisions.

6. Mediocrity of civil service. By which I mean the the glamorous chief vet who frankly wasn’t that hot, though she will now get a K. Not as sinister as Scudamore but she did everything she could to keep the approach NFU friendly, and I predict the vaccination kits will not be used. She pretended vaccination is an option while never intending to use it unless someone put a bullet to her head. So far, she’s got away with it. I think it’s a cynical tactic. I exempt the local field Defra office in Surrey who have distiguished themselves by being actually human. It has been my own experience as the owner of a registered farm (currently on the very edge of the surveillance zone) that the worker bees at the local Defra office do try to be helpful, despite the insane orders they receive from headquarters.

5. NFU more digusting than ever and why they are taken seriously is a disease of public policy. Literally. The government is required to consult them under a 1947 Act passed by a Labour government that idiotically thought they were empowering a union. What we have, despite recent reforms, is a monster in which not all members even get to vote, and the last five bosses have been knighted. This is a corrupt relationship in the sense of mordant decay. It produces terrible public policy. They are so unbelievably slippery and unconvincing. They are probably reading this wondering whether to sue me but some one is reminding them of MacDonalds.

4. Internet has dramatically improved networking and communications for us “troublemakers” who object that government policy is unscientific, brutal and disgusting. But while the networks are activating quickly, frankly we lack real political clout. We do not have a clunking great fist. The challenge is to convert our command of the facts and superb intelligence into meaningful pressure. I admit this is a tough problem when our democracy is so intangible, and note that it is a problem not unique to this issue.

3. This time around there is some interesting potential for lawyers. I imagine there are going to be some rewarding issues of liability and indemnity to fight about. This will pay for some very beautiful houses in France and a lot of very good claret.

2. Pirbright should be closed and the entire operation moved to a rocky island off Scotland, preferably.

1. Gordon Brown has been bloody lucky. So far.

This is my best guess at the moment. If the outbreak gets much worse then this list becomes inoperative, of course, and I will have to do it over.

Matthew Weaver is back today in The Guardian. Not to be missed. Ditto Warmwell. Rapidly improving Sheepdrove blog has good piece on “vaccinate to live.”


11 Responses

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  1. Dunroamin said, on August 9, 2007 at 12:23 pm

    Re your point (2) – it is interesting how the US has placed their equivalent lab on an island in the Atlantic (Plum Island) – provides a good bio-secure boundary and presumably limits the risk of accidental infection of adjacent livestock. Compare that to the Pribright lab – located in the middle of a farming community. We must be mad (or is it criminally insane) – given the previous incident involving a breach at the Pirbright lab, it ought to be relocated to a secure (preferably offshore) location, in a purpose built facility, with an appropriate livestock farming exclusion zone of the nearest landfall.

  2. Tom said, on August 9, 2007 at 1:33 pm

    Not a K for Debby, shurely, but a D. (Ideally, inscribed on a conical hat for her to wear in the corner.)

    I assume you are consulting

    I wondered how long G. Brown’s luck would hold. Peter Brookes had a nice cartoon in the Times, showing him riding on an old cow and being borne down upon by an angry-looking bull bearing the legend “EVENTS”. This has all the makings of a colossal scandal; what few tatters of reputation for competence the govt retains are about to be blown away, it seems.

  3. […] you need to know more – there’s no better source that WARMWELL to keep you up to date, Jonathan Miller for incisive comment and now Matthew Weaver in the Guardian pitches in […]

  4. Jane Barribal said, on August 9, 2007 at 5:48 pm

    Just take a look at some of the Farmers Stories to see what they and their animals suffered in 2001 –

    Farmtalking published their stories with pictures and with their permission and has always campaigned for vaccination and continues to do so.

    Our Govt is prepared to cause this agony again and has changed the law to make legal what was done illegally in 2001, giving farmers no right to challenge the slaughter of healthy animals in the British Courts.

    We hope the 2007 outbreak is over, but if our Govt. continues with the present policy and methods to control the disease, which at present includes ‘vaccination to kill’, FMD will be back at some time in the future.

    I wonder how well the British public will take to the idea of slaughtering vaccinated livestock – the Dutch were none too happy about it. Are you?

  5. Jonathan Miller said, on August 9, 2007 at 7:43 pm

    Sheepdrove and Compassion in world Farming are campaigning for ‘vaccination for life.’ which is obviously the only sensible policy, especially if owners are prepared to do this at their own expense. The only thing stopping this is the economic interest of the NFU beef barons.

  6. Pat Gardiner said, on August 9, 2007 at 7:50 pm

    Pat’s Note: This is what you get when you lie time and time again. A clash
    with the media.

    There will be more. Britain’s corrupt vets are running out of control again.

    The Scottish Executive investigated criminal offences committed by their vets
    in England. Witnesses to the House of Commons threatened repeatedly in their
    own homes. It is a disgusting mess worthy only of a banana republic.

    It should be the senior ranks of the SVS arrested, not journalists.

    The SVS has crossed the Rubicon.

    If the SVS had given proper timely and honest information this probably would not have happened.

    Anyway it is just an allegation at the moment. It is probably another Maff-Defra frame-up, droped before it reaches Court.
    Foot and mouth journalists arrested
    9 August 2007

  7. Hamish Stuart said, on August 10, 2007 at 3:35 am

    “2. Pirbright should be closed and the entire operation moved to a rocky island off Scotland, preferably.”

    This is NIMBY stuff – and worse. It seems you were all quite happy with the jobs and money emanating from Pirbright when you didn’t think you had a problem – but now there appears to be one you want to get rid of the establishment, “preferably”, to Scotland.

    These “rocky islands” have communities living there who are somewhat dependent on livestock rearing to earn what they consider to be a living.

    We also have internet access and haven’t missed the proliferation of swimming pools and tennis courts when we were looking for the F&M “farms” in the absence of information from DEFRA.

    Putting the crap to the cleanest environment is not an innovative solution.
    Rocks in Scotland are deemed far more suitable than London clay as the repositories of nuclear waste – This is not geology it’s the inverse square law.

    Your idea is not new – there was an experimental “establishment” on Gruniard Island between 1942 and 1943. I am sure the locals and even the South British settlers would welcome your suggestions with open razors.

    If there is a problem with the location of Pirbright then the answer is not a rocky Island off Scotland – the answer is Central London.
    Bio security would be enforced easily and infringements reported speedily.

    There are few four legged caprines, ovines or bovines which can be affected by Foot and Mouth Disease within a 5 Km radius of that location.

    The proliferation of goats, sheep and indeed cows in that location are two legged and are wholly immune to F&M virus.

    Kind Regards

    Hamish Stuart.

  8. Jonathan Miller said, on August 10, 2007 at 7:55 am

    Very amusing, Hamish! Those would be the Auchtermuchty Stuarts then? You make a serious point in contrast to my cheap, ironic poke at our Scottish rulers. No, I would not wish this on even our neighbours to the north. But never call me a Nimby!

  9. Jane Barribal said, on August 10, 2007 at 7:56 am

    O dear! I got it wrong!

    Another case suspected last night near Dorking outside the control zones.

    Will they vaccinate ‘to live’ now or ‘slaughter on suspicion’ again?

    The sooner we give farmers the choice and have an FMD vaccination policy throughout the UK, the better.

    FMD free status must go and we must vaccinate now!

  10. Jane Barribal said, on August 10, 2007 at 2:51 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 –

    Please ask your friends to sign it too!

    Thank you!
    Jane Barribal – Farmtalking

  11. […] Naughty boy, forgot to include links to top class resources for this post. Warmwell, Jonathan Miller, and Matthew Weaver in the Guardian. It’s Matthew’s blog that provided the link to the […]

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