Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Written Evidence


Annex 2

RATIONAL BEHIND PROTOCOL OF INSET 23

  1.  M. bovis was a zoonosis as evidenced by Scrofula and may also cause disease in humans by other routes of infection, particulary as it is frequently found in the respiratory tract of cattle. It should also be kept out of the food chain by preventing infected cattle to be slaughtered for human consumption.

  2.  M. bovis in cattle was made notifiable and the legislation encapsulated by Inset 23.

  3.  What were the premises on which Inset 23 was based?

  4.  M. tuberculosis was a serious and at the time an ultimately fatal disease of the human respiratory tract and as M. bovis was also found in the respiratory tract of cattle it might cause a similar respiratory disease in humans.

  5.  Inset 23 therefore, was written primarily on the assumption that M. bovis spread from cattle to cattle via the respiratory tract just like M. tuberculosis in humans. This led to the legislation being written some 60 years ago and left unchanged and unchallenged to the present day. The result is that within the farming industry of the 21st century this legislation has become excessively restrictive and financially punitive to farms with discovered cases of TB. In my view the original grounds on which the legislation was based were, and still are, spurious and should be challenged.

REASONS FOR REJECTING VALIDITY OF INSET 23 PROTOCOL

  1.  Assumption made in paragraph 4 above is totally flawed for the following reasons:

    a)  Anectdotal evidence from cases I dealt with on Powys farms in the early 90s, where despite close contact between open cases and other susceptible animals, no infection developed in respiratory tracts of any of the susceptible animals.

    b)  Accepting that infected badgers contaminate grass of grazing cattle and cattle are primarily infected by ingestion there is a very simple and satisfactory explanation why cattle so often have infection in their respiratory tracts. It is due to their idiosyncratic grooming behaviour. Cattle are the only domestic species to push their tongues up their nostrils as part of their grooming process. What better way to introduce infection from the alimentary to the respiratory tract? An infected tongue would act just like a bacterial swab.

    c)  Investigation of the records of human TB infection notified over the decade preceding 1995 showed that each year there were about 2000 cases of TB. Of these around 80% were due to M. tuberculosis and around 18-19.5 % due to numerous exotic species. Only 0.5-2% were caused by M. bovis. Further investigation of this group revealed that most confirmed cases were found in immigrants from countries where the consumption of non-pasteurised milk was the norm.

PROBLEMS ASSOCIATED WITH EFFECTING CHANGE

  1.  Government policy is the distillation of multifarious inputs, but in this sort of instance veterinary advice from the State Veterinary Service would be weighed heavily.

  2.  Inset 23 is under the jurisdiction of the State Veterinary Service within DEFRA and to advise change would require a clinical veterinary approach rather than that of dogma. In my extensive experience of veterinary surgeons in the SVS they are not able to adopt a clinical approach, simply because of minimal "hands on" clinical experience. They are merely civil servants with a veterinary degree and as such are a totally different animal. They would not be sympathetic to any change in the dogma of Inset 23 without irrefutable evidence that it is flawed. My experience is that such a clinically persuasive and simple explanation for the specious grounds on which Inset 23 is based would be dismissed out of hand.

  3.  Acceptable irrefutable evidence to support my clinically based hypothesis could only be obtained by suitable research both at field level and also by looking critically at the epidemiology of recorded outbreaks. Unfortunately, in the present political climate funding for this type of research may prove very hard to find.

  4.  Such research, I am sure, would turn up enough confirmation of my theory to allow at least a "risk analysis" approach to be applied to the protocol of Inset 23, rather than the draconian punitive measures that are employed at present. In my opinion, provided there are adequate safeguards retained to prevent the presentation of infected animals at slaughterhouses the restrictive measures could be considerably eased to the enormous benefit of large numbers of farmers present and future.

  5.  $64,000 question; how best could an official reconsideration of the propriety of Inset 23 be effected? Is there a route on which to build a successful lobby?





 
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