Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 20-39)



20.  Just reversing the argument, to what extent are the arguments against the use of emergency vaccine valid? You have got 30 paragraphs of them. They are described as scientific arguments, this is 8.46 to 8.76, but in fact they look like practical arguments to me, like carrier animals, discrimination between vaccinated and infected animals. To what extent are those arguments valid now?

  (Professor Sir Brian Follett) We should deal with that and I will ask Professor McConnell and maybe David Black. They are issues, but that was really the heart of what our report was about, analysing those issues and seeing whether or not the carrier animal status is a genuine veto on this, as it has been claimed by various people, or whether the ability to distinguish vaccinated from infected animals proves to be impossible, but we concluded at the end of the day, as others are doing around the world, we are not unique in that sense in our report at all, that these problems can now be overcome.
  (Professor McConnell) We went through these arguments fairly carefully. There are no compelling scientific arguments against emergency vaccination and our inquiry was a science-based inquiry as to what does science allow you to do as opposed to the rulebook. What characterises FMD control, is the rulebook compared to science. We looked at the scientific opportunities and the scientific arguments against the use of emergency vaccination and the scientific arguments against them do not stand up to detailed scrutiny. There is the question of the carrier animal. The carrier animal has, as we pointed out in this inquiry, achieved what one of our members on the inquiry called 'iconic status'. It is a bogeyman which stalks this field and it is a useful bogeyman to bring out if you are not prepared to embrace the use of vaccination. You can wave your hands and say, "Oh, the carrier animal". The carrier animal is, in an epidemiological sense, one that transmits disease to other animals. There is no epidemiological, field or even experimental, evidence to prove that the carrier animal in FMD is infectious. That is a very key point. Just finding the virus in the tissues of an animal is not an example that it is infectious to others. If we jump to polio virus vaccination in children, there are lots of studies done on the persistence of the virus for a period of time after polio virus vaccination is given to children, vaccinated against polio. You can recover polio virus for eight weeks after vaccination. That does not say that those children are naturally infectious and are going to be a seed of infection for everything around the planet, so I think with the carrier state, the case has been overstated and the science, we could not find really detailed hard science that would make us say that it is really an argument that should stack up. The development of these tests that allow you to discriminate vaccinated from infected animals is really very powerful. The science is in place, the work has been done. What remains to be done is to evaluate the statistical sampling framework under which you would use those tests, how many animals do you test, how many farms do you test, et cetera, but that could be done. That is really a practical exercise and many of the practical and management issues are all do-able. This is all solvable. I think I would agree with you, that if we had an outbreak tomorrow, some of the issues we would like to see in place are not in place, but let's hope we do not have an outbreak tomorrow. If the next outbreak is 10 years away or 15 years away, then, for goodness sake, in the next space of the18 months get on with establishing practical details. It is management and it is a management culture that embraces the use of vaccination, not putting your hands up in horror against it and saying no. That is what I meant by the culture. Although there are strong cultural arguments against its use, there are scientific arguments for its use.
  (Dr Mumford) These management issues do have to be undertaken in concert with the OIE and the EU because we need to have international approval that the tests that are used within an outbreak in this country are up to international standards and, therefore, we get that release from restrictions as quickly as possible and that is what is going on at the current time within the OIE and other bodies.

Paddy Tipping

21.  I wanted to turn to a point you made some time ago, Professor Follett, which was about the rules of engagement. You were saying, I think rightly, that they have got to be resolved at Westminster and Whitehall and there has to be a vigorous debate, but those rules of engagement are defined or ought to be informed at least by good science. Now, politicians are not generally believed in the press and increasingly scientists are not well believed in the press. I just wonder whether you would make some more general points about the way in which the Government uses science. Part of the problem with the last outbreak was that we had rules of engagement, but which in a sense were old fashioned and they had not been brought up to date with the science. What should government be doing more generally to make sure that we are in touch with science, that science is informing our policies?

  (Dr Mumford) I would like to answer this because I have a bee in my bonnet about it. I think that the makeup of the Royal Society Committee is an excellent model for how you should go forward because not only do you have the scientists, you have representatives of the agricultural industry, the veterinary profession, the consumers and if you put all those people together and develop a team so that they understand each other's perspectives, then you get trust and confidence and then you can go forward.

22.  But we have not got those processes in place as a matter of course?

  (Dr Mumford) No, that needs to be developed for all the agricultural species so that we can develop plans that the industry understands and that is backed by good science.

23.  That implies then that DEFRA ought to be increasing not just its science budgets, but also the way it defines the work that it needs and the process.

  (Dr Mumford) And the communications, absolutely.
  (Professor Sir Brian Follett) Perhaps Peter Allen might want to say something from a farmer's standpoint.
  (Mr Allen) I would use the correlation with the recent Hills Task Force report which was made by farmers, environmentalists, political commentators and people representing the consumers and I think that was another example where you took the broad band of the people with interests in the rural issues and, just the same with science, I hope this report has proved that science on its own is pure science and what does deliver is science in practice.
  (Professor Sir Brian Follett) I would also add that we do say something about the fact that we need a much better system for inputting advice before and during outbreaks. We recommend the creation of a high-level technical advisory committee. They were not present clearly, otherwise the Chief Scientific Adviser, Professor King, would not have felt obligated to create such an organisation. We are not convinced and there is no evidence yet that DEFRA had taken that point on at a high enough level. It is not in the interim contingency plan that there will be a high-level scientific advisory committee. We go on to say that it should be chaired by the Chief Scientific Adviser in DEFRA, my old colleague, Professor Howard Dalton, who has recently taken up the post, and it should involve officials from other parts of Whitehall. I come back to the point that just having a group of scientists by themselves is not really the point. It could well be science-led in some ways, and science is the way you start the debate, rather than legally-led or trade-led, but within that one of the strengths we found was actually on the Committee, a very broad church of people, so the recommendations that emerged from our report do have the strength that they would not be in there unless all the people had either signed up or those people who did not agree did not feel so strongly about it that they would oppose it.

Mr Martlew

24.  On that point of being experienced in committees, which part of your report was fudged to get agreement?

  (Mr Allen) I think the classic example of that was probably one of the most contentious issues of today and that is animal movements and the 20-day stand-still. If you look at the report, we actually asked the industry to get together with government and scientists to deliver something which was practical and could operate in the commercial world. One of the strong points we recommended, and I do not think anybody in the room can disagree, was the need to re-establish that close liaison between the farmer and the veterinary profession, ie, me and my own vet, because that has not happened so much in recent times in farming because of the ability and the use of medicines has changed. That recommendation not only looks at our problem of disease control, ie, biosecurity on our farms, but it can look at the animal movements, the animal welfare and health of the animals on the farm and, ie, flock and health plans can be developed with your local vet. He can look into local transport issues and how you prepare animals for transport. In the days that we have now of Farm Assured, it is very much a part of that and again the best person to deliver a verdict on whether you are completing and satisfying the requirements is your local vet. He knows you in the local community and the standard to which you are producing livestock. Again we have the issue which has cropped up before of licensing farms. Well, who is that? Somebody in a white coat with a tick box. He wants to be somebody who understands what is happening on your set-up. Another one probably coming into it in the future is what we call `pharmacological-vigilance', which is the use and effectiveness of medicines and to see that there is no adverse reaction and I know the industry is saying, "How do we police this?" If you look at all of those issues, the one common factor is that relationship between you and the local vet. The movement issue in 20 days, a lot of the movements in our areas and where Eric comes from are traditional autumn movements. They happen every year within a localised industry. There is one example this time of a man who normally buys his replacement livestock within a 40-mile radius, off people he knows who are treated by the same vet and because of the 20-day stand-still, he is now buying from 280 miles away because he cannot fit it in, so there is huge opportunity for not only stand-still and transport reasons to explore this avenue of that relationship where you have got the scientific basis from the vet and the practicality from the farmer.
  (Mr Black) It is clear from our findings really that we feel that many of the problems that did occur last time can be avoided next time by re-establishing many of these relationships and many of these understandings. Things like vaccination were not grasped last time because of a lack of understanding, computer modelling was not grasped and there was a very poor relationship between the local practitioners like myself and DEFRA. We were used as foot soldiers really instead of being used as part of the operation to control the disease. Now, these are all the things where we are saying that if we have a contingency plan, we all discuss it prior to that and we can have a better idea for the next time of what is likely to happen. The relationship between the farmer and his local vet and the relationships between the vet and DEFRA and the State Veterinary Service are weakened and we have to strengthen those and use people's skills as much as possible. I could honestly say as a vet who was in the middle of it last year that there is nothing in this report that I felt was fudged. I did not compromise on any of my beliefs or principles because the science is sound and it is a matter of trying to apply that science so that everybody understands it.

Phil Sawford

25.  You put a great deal of emphasis on this relationship between the local farmers and the vet. We all lament the passing of the village bobby and we all wish we knew the person we dealt with at our bank, but we do not and the next thing is that it will be a telephone bank somewhere in India when you ring up the bank. It probably is already. Whilst I sympathise with what you say, is that a real prospect in the future, that we rebuild that relationship the length and breadth of the country where every farmer has had a 20-year relationship with their local vet? Is that really possible?

  (Mr Black) It is not so much that. The point is that we are now worried about surveillance and detecting this disease and finding this disease. A farmer may well know that he has got a 10 per cent abortion rate or a 50 per cent lameness rate, but if he has got no facility then to contact his local vet and say, "Look, I've got a problem", and that vet then says to the local veterinary laboratory, "Look, we've got a problem", and then they report it to DEFRA that it may be A or B, we are going to lose that basic surveillance. We are going to lose all that background noise of disease that we need to understand so that when something like foot and mouth does pop its head up or blue tongue or whatever it is next time, we recognise it. At the moment, the economics of farming and the relationships between the likes of the State Veterinary Service, which is having more and more of its funding withdrawn and more of it is looking at targeted surveillance as opposed to passive surveillance, we are losing that ability to detect the background noise of disease and losing all those relationships. I suppose it is like the village bobby, and he knows who is likely to be nicking the apples from the orchard, but yes, it has to be re-established. If we are going to control animal health in this country, we have to re-establish that.
  (Mr Allen) I think it actually is looking forward and not looking back. By the way, a lot of the village bobbies are returning, so it has taken us a while to learn that as well. But it is looking forward. You are talking about a mid-term review and if that comes, you are talking about probable on-farm audits again which will have to justify why you are getting these payments. Animal health and welfare is bound to come into it and I think the role in the future has so much to offer to take away a lot of the bureaucratic systems that individually can stack up and come at a cost, whereas if you get this relationship, it is one inspection, it is one person you are dealing with that can bring up reliable reports of the state, health and welfare of the animals in the country.

David Taylor

26.  Can we move back to a certain extent to an area that Professor Follett raised in his preliminary remarks about routine vaccination and the report is pretty clear about the caveats associated with the role of routine vaccination. You also call for considerable improvements in the vaccines which exist. How quickly does Professor Follett or any of his colleagues think that an effective vaccine might be brought to the market and is the approval process for veterinary medicines too high a hurdle for the developers of the vaccine to allow this to be more speedily available?

  (Professor McConnell) Are you talking of the development of a prophylactic medicine?

27.  Yes, which I think was the point that Professor Follett referred to earlier on.

  (Professor McConnell) If that is going to take place, it requires a strategic alliance between industry, centres of good science and regulatory authorities. One of the biggest hold-ups to getting that moving ahead and getting it moving fast is that the regulatory authorities who control FMD do not see the need for a routine vaccine. If you do not see the need for the development of a routine vaccine, industry is not going to be prepared to invest in the development of such a vaccine. If you come to some of the other fields where industry working in partnership with government does develop good science, and I would pick, for example, the development of HIV vaccines and things of that description, HIV diagnostics where there is a growing market, the market is out there, industry is prepared to engage and if it does result in the development of a vaccine, it will be used. Jenny Mumford can also reinforce this argument from her own perspective. If the will is there, then I do believe that the R&D effort will move ahead apace. There is nothing at the present minute that is terribly difficult with the development of new, sophisticated vaccines. It could be done and in some places it has already been done, the technology is in place, the vaccine science has moved forward dramatically in the last 20 years, so there is a huge opportunity here and also a huge global problem to be addressed. If the will is there from the regulatory authorities to use it, then I would suspect that commerce and industry working in partnership with government and others can really make a big impact here. There is a huge prize and I think it is within our grasp.

28.  Is the approvals process a major brake on the rate of development?

  (Dr Mumford) I think you have to recognise that the approval system, the European one here or the USDA, whoever put in place the regulations for vaccine approval, they are regarded as minimum standards. A very strong case was made at a recent conference that while there was no market for routine prophylactic vaccination, then there would be no investment from the biological companies in the research and development, the second phase. Governments may fund Plum Island and Pirbright to do the basic science, but it will never go on to the next phase because there is no market. Unless you have that alliance between governments and the industry and the clients, the agricultural industry, those products will not happen. The case was being made that in actual fact the regulations for licensing should be made even higher to have better products so that they could be used as part of a biosecurity system and the arguments that vaccination would obscure infection within a population, those arguments could be eliminated.
  (Professor Sir Brian Follett) I do not think anybody can ever guarantee that one will produce a vaccine, but we have been there in lots of diseases. When we were young polio vaccine was produced. I think it would be arrogant in the extreme for us to say that it is a certainty. What we can say is that there is a high probability that with the correct international endeavours and the use of modern biomedicine, then a vaccine can be developed. Without question though, there is a market defect which really does have to be resolved internationally in order to cause that development to take place.
  (Dr Mumford) For all list A diseases, not just foot and mouth, but for all these exotic diseases, and that is a really important point.

Mr Martlew

29.  Just on that, if my memory serves me correctly, at one time they used to vaccinate on the Continent.

  (Professor Sir Brian Follett) Yes.

30.  Would it have been possible actually to have vaccinated this country for the particular strain that affected our animals? Do we have a vaccine for that? Could it have been done?

  (Professor Sir Brian Follett) There is in reality no reason why you should not use routine vaccination. It was used, as you say, until a decade ago in the rest of the EU, except for Denmark, the Republic of Ireland and ourselves, and that is why, for example, as one talks to colleagues in the EU, both in the parliamentary committee and throughout the EU, there is of course much less of a cultural barrier anyway to the concept of using vaccination as one sees fit, either routine or emergency. What is true though is that it is pretty sort of inefficient and there is a great risk of course that one will vaccinate against an O-strain only to find that the strain that arrives in Britain, which is a large meat-importing country, comes in from South America. It is worth observing that our knowledge is that the closest strain of virus, the viral strain that attacked the UK in 2001, the closest strain to it was the one which attacked South Africa in September 2000. We do not know, we were not in a position to carry out the detective work, which I hope should have been carried out, to determine whether or not it is likely that both South Africa and ourselves were attacked by this strain from a third party/country, I do not know, but there is a gap of four months or the other logical thing, which is that the source of the strain in South Africa either arrived here and infected us four months later or something from South Africa arrived carrying that strain.

31.  That brings me to the next question, would it not be sensible to try and eradicate foot and mouth throughout the globe using vaccination?

  (Professor Sir Brian Follett) It would be, sir, but these are very difficult things to do. We know only too well that we have eradicated smallpox only for all of us to be much concerned as to "have we" and right now to buy large amounts of vaccine and President Bush thinking of vaccinating the entire American population. That is probably a little naive. In the case of the agricultural disease rinderpest, which was a terrible disease, (I quote in this Report from 1714, which is quite interesting, on the bottom of page 60). It is worth reading the footnote on page 60 about rinderpest, which is now nearly gone. You could do it. What would be very valuable would be to develop a routine vaccine which would then allow you to the bear down so that you put into reverse the risks of getting this disease, because other factors in society, the globalisation of trade, the globalisation of people, as it were, are operating in the opposite direction enhancing and increasing the risks of these diseases.

32.  What you are really saying is that we are more likely to have another outbreak of foot and mouth in the near future than we were 100 years ago?

  (Professor Sir Brian Follett) I think from 25 years ago, if I may say so, I think there is a subtle difference. Like so many infectious diseases we did get on top of these things and there was probably a window in the 50s, 60s and 70s whereby a combination of very strict control systems, the presence of vaccines and antibiotics in some ways and a relatively small amount of movement of people and goods led to a low point in our risk. What has happened in the last 15 years, for which we are all very delighted to see all of the advantages, is that the globalisation factor has increased the risk again and we have not taken, it seems to me, sufficient cognisance of those changes over the last 20 years to re-erect the kind of system we need.

33.  I think Dr Mumford has said that there would not be the money available to commercially develop this routine vaccine.

  (Dr Mumford) I am saying the companies will not invest in doing it because there is no market in the western world.

34.  The logic is that it has cost this country about three billion pounds and to develop this vaccine would be a fraction of that cost.

  (Dr Mumford) That is my view.
  (Mr Allen) I think it is important to remember there too it is not a risk assessment that is taking place because in 2000 prior to the outbreak the risk assessment at that time was the worry of what was happening in Greece and Turkey. As the Chairman indicated if it came, as most likely from South Africa we would have been doing risk assessments and basing it on the type of foot and mouth we were going to get on the fact that it was in Europe.
  (Professor McConnell) If you think of global routine vaccination you would not use the current existing vaccines because there are some scientific and technical obstacles. New, sophisticated vaccines cut away a lot of those problems. If there is no market there would be no science. I think it is achievable. If I can quote you a very good example where a novel vaccine was used to great effect, it was in the control of fox rabies throughout Europe through the release of a genetically engineered recombinant virus vaccine which was showered across the forests of Europe with great effect for controlling fox rabies. Prior to that development people would not have been able to approach the question of vaccination against fox rabies, suddenly you have a new technology, you apply it and it works. I cannot see any real, compelling arguments, other than regulatory arguments, why we cannot go ahead down those routes.


35.  Professor Follett, you said you wanted to say something about diagnosis. First of all, something I am concerned about, the procedures which they use to confirm the outbreak of an infectious disease, because that has to be identified in the library of the OIE as things stand at the moment, as I understand, and then, can you talk about pen-side diagnosis. We had a lot of arguments about whether this existed, whether it was validated or not validated. We went through bitter and emotional stuff about this, can you tell me where we were and where we are and what the implications are likely to be?

  (Professor Sir Brian Follett) Our view on this is that it is absolutely essential to use a proper government reference laboratory to diagnose the index case.

36.  Yes.

  (Professor Sir Brian Follett) However, after that, when one therefore is in a position and fighting an outbreak, that is when we want to see the centre of gravity of the diagnostics move from the government laboratory as far across, if possible, to the farm and therefore we spent some time—there is a whole chapter in this Report—on the situation as far as pen-side diagnostics, taking into account the needs of people, such as my colleague David Black, who would use these diagnostics. They need to be vet friendly. There is no point in devising something for which you need an honours degree in diagnostics before you can turn it on. In that sense we need something of that sort. We need a second thing which is occurring at the moment and makes it fluid. Bioterrorism has so triggered the US and that creative engine across there to be coming up with all sorts of ideas we can be fairly sure in the 12 weeks since we wrote this there is probably another half a dozen new ideas, none of them know which ones are going to work. We do not need to get into the technical detail, perhaps I can ask Jenny Mumford to say something about what is available in these relatively straight forward pen-side diagnostics and if they are not good enough how PCR technology could be used on the farm.
  (Dr Mumford) I think we need to look at two issues, we have animals with suspected FMD because they have rather unusual lesions, we are not sure and we need to confirm that that is an FMD case. Then there are animals that we think are at risk and maybe they need to be culled but they do not show any signs and we want to see if we can diagnose where the infections are moving, and they are two different scenarios. There are dipstick technologies that can be used on animals with lesions. There are prototypes. There are probably some supplies but what you have to understand is that veterinary diagnostic companies are very small and they would not hold large stocks for a disease such as FMD, because it has not been around for a very long while, and you immediately get into the situation where you would exhaust supplies, and this is where government has to come in because they basically are the client. You need reserves of those sort of tests so that if you have outbreaks they can be given to the veterinary surgeon who is going on to the farm to get immediate answers. There were arguments about the sensitivity of the dipstick technology, I think a lot of those arguments came from people who are used to dealing with human beings, individual clients and if the sensitivity is 80 per cent then you might miss it for that person. If you are operating on a herd basis lack of sensitivity is not that serious because you just sample a lot of animals. So, yes, they are there but the supply is an issue which needs to be looked into from the point of view of DEFRA. When it comes on to the PCR technology that is a highly sensitive test which can actually detect infection for clinical science. There were discussions about mobile pieces of equipment but the problem was that they were not tested under field conditions in an outbreak, so we are still in a position of ignorance as to their effectiveness. They do provide very serious challenges about standardisation and the quality of the information and if you are going to kill out groups of animals on the basis of it you have to have a very good back up on the quality and standardisation. I think we err towards the position that it would be better to have regional laboratories that could undertake this high-tech diagnostics as they have in human medicine for testing blood donations, they test thousands of blood donations for very low quantities of virus, very speedily. Those systems could be put in place for veterinary diagnostics but it is going take some investment. You also have to have a situation where you can gear up the system for outbreaks and then have an interepidemic situation where those facilities can be used for other useful surveillance, and that needs to be addressed.
  (Mr Black) As a vet in the field it is absolutely crucial that we have the premium of time, we have the advantage of being able to detect the disease even before the clinical signs appear. These PCR technologies could be very useful for screening bulk milk from dairy herds but particularly in the face of a disease. In some ways it is unfortunate that vaccination has hijacked many of the discussions because diagnostics is probably more important for us in the field of detecting that disease. Having to take samples and send them to a central laboratory with all of the delays and time that involves is very frustrating. These pen-side tests to detect virus hopefully even before the clinical signs and before those animals are chucking out a lot of virus is very, very important. From the point of view of sheep, which often were infected without showing clinical signs, it would be a useful place to use these tests to show antibodies, that these animals had met the virus and how to prevent it. I think it is important that we get the diagnostic level down to the field and away from the big central labs.

Phil Sawford

37.  Culling, as we all know and appreciate, is a very blunt instrument and I think many were surprised at how rapidly foot and mouth spread, and we talked about different movements and different patterns. Then there was consideration that these are airborne diseases and it is worse in wet weather. It seems that our knowledge of the transmission of the foot and mouth disease is rather limited, should we have tried to gather more information during the recent outbreak to try and identify more clearly just how that transmission happens?

  (Mr Black) I think you have hit one of the biggest nails right on the head, we do not understand enough about this disease to work out how it is removed and therefore how to control it. We still have 80 per cent of the cases from the last outbreak that we do not understand how it spread. You are absolutely right, we should have done a lot more but in the middle of the war you are not worrying about how it is happening, you are just trying to stop it. It is absolutely critical that we try and understand more about it and more about how the virus is spread. Wildlife has been suggested by many, we found no evidence at all that wildlife acted as a reservoir of disease but it may well be that wildlife is passively carrying the virus on fur or feathers or feet or in the digestive tract and that is another area that urgently requires a lot of investment to try and identify it. So much depends on control of these diseases as to how they are spread, your control policy, your vaccination policy, that is why you cannot apply a blanket vaccination policy for every situation because each situation will be different. As you say, the environment will be different, the weather will be different, the movement of animals will be different. It is absolutely critical and it is an area that needs huge investment to try and tie it up.
  (Professor Sir Brian Follett) There is no doubt that we do not know enough about how the virus spreads. 91 per cent of the spread of the foot and mouth in 1967 was caused by local spread unidentified. In the year 2001 the situation is 80 per cent unknown, so we have not made all that much progress in understanding this. We certainly need a research programme. The point should be that in that sense it is an applied research programme and the aim is evidence based biosecurity. What we need is a well developed package of biosecurity advice to farmers and veterinarians which is rationally and securely based. Why have we not got it? That is a reasonable question. There really is not an enormous amount known about the virus. Firstly, that information has yet in a strange sense to be pulled together in a way that you would pull it together into a single unit. Secondly, it is quite a difficult virus to work with, because of its nature facilities to work on these viruses have to be highly secure and therefore in a country of this size we really have just one place, a few sheds in Surrey where you can do this in high security, that is it. In a sense one can understand why perhaps we are deficient. Our research agenda, which fell out of the Report—it was not at the beginning—at the end of the Report we concluded there was a research agenda and on the top of that research agenda was quite basic, biology of the virus to develop evidence based by security systems.

38.  In your Report you state that you did not consider the role of markets in the cattle and sheep livestock industries, et cetera, why did you not consider the role of the markets, did you just take it as a given that one of the big problems there was the bringing together of animals in markets? That is clearly an issue for the future and because of our lack of knowledge and lack of understanding in the absence of that detail we now have the 20 day standstill and that is causing huge problems within the agricultural industry and that is linked to the fact that we really do not understand the way that the virus is spread. Until we have more information, although there is tremendous pressure on things like the 20 day standstill it is likely to be continued to be imposed until we have more understanding. I think there is a need from the industry side to do that investigation, even if it is in a couple of sheds in Surrey.

  (Professor Sir Brian Follett) We did not have a research capacity ourselves we were dependent upon evidence which was submitted to us. There is no doubt about it that trying to work out the complexity of how movement controls would or would not lower the chances of the disease being transmitted we were not able to do that. We believe it should be done. Generally what we said was that if one is going to have a precautionary approach to these diseases then one wants to minimise the degree of movement of animals during peacetime, we are not talking about an outbreak, we are talking about a period when we do not have it. That, of course, is the principle behind the 20 day standstill. We do quote the views expressed to us by the Pig Veterinary Association, who point out a long time ago the pig industry fought bitterly against a standstill structure being imposed on their industry, it was imposed 20 odd years ago and they now think that in retrospect it was a sound move. In some ways I am watching the 20 day standstill debate with a slight angle from that. What I do think seems to be occurring, and it may be that my colleague Mr Allen is much closer to it, is that the imposition of the 20 day standstill by the government has triggered the debate about how to deal with this issue. From what I understand over the last day with Peter Allen is it is leading to the beginning of sensible projections and sensible ideas as to how we can have movement restrictions during peacetime.


39.  It does not help that there are two 20 day standstills, one in Scotland and one in England. Is it supposed that sheep are more intelligent on one side of the border or the other or farmers are more intelligent on one side of the border than the other? Are they both equally safe, as it were, or has somebody got it wrong?

  (Mr Allen) I think you have hit the nail on the head there, right bang smack in the middle, because you come back to the 20 day standstill. The logic and the science in it does not stand up even to the most amateur scientist who is delving himself in the practice of farming out in the countryside. I can have a neighbour who can create an isolation unit in one of his buildings and brings animals and put them in it, but I can choose to run the 20 day standstill. I can go and buy 300 sheep put them in the field next door to my neighbours, I cannot trade because of the 20 day standstill—I am merely the other neighbour on the other side, the sheep are next door fenced only between me and him—but he can continue trading as much as he wants. There is no barrier between me and him at all. To the average person the science does not stack up. We have to get back down to ground, and I will not repeat what I said before about the relations, but I think that has a critical role to play. We have to find something that is deliverable, and I mean throughout the country. Like you say it has to be the same in Scotland, Wales and England because we have moved sheep between Scotland and England and between England and Wales for years and we will continue to do so. In 1756 they moved 450 cattle from Fife in Scotland and 450 sheep down the Drover's Road to south of Birmingham. Compared to the amount of livestock in the country at that time that was an awful lot of livestock walking down the road. Thank God they did not have a disease because the whole country would have got it.


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