We write to object to the proposed legislation contained within the Animal Health Bill that is currently before the House of Lords for consideration.
During the FMD epidemic of 2001, the neighbouring farm to our Devon smallholding became an Infected Premises. We had taken biosecurity measures to ensure that our sheep flock was not exposed to the disease, and we resisted the so-called contiguous cull as unnecessary, unethical and illegal. We co-operated with regular inspection of our stock by ministry vets, who found no sign of disease, and we requested blood-testing, which was refused.
Eventually our flock was tested some three months later as part of the county-wide serology programme, and the results were negative. Of 200 premises that were advised by Alayne Addy, the Exeter-based solicitor, and resisted the contiguous cull, not a single one went on to develop the disease; all their livestock remained healthy and have since been cleared by laboratory testing.
This represents approx. 115,00 animals saved from pointless slaughter in Devon alone. Across the UK, the same story has unfolded. Statistics now show that positive test results for FMD were found on only 65.5% of Infected Premises. Not one positive test result was found on any farm slaughtered as contiguous, dangerous contact or on suspicion, representing more than 5 million additional animals killed.
Firebreak or contiguous culls are novel and unproven concepts, proposed by mathematical modellers with no training in veterinary science nor any specialist knowledge of FMD. Their computer models have been condemned by many veterinary scientists who do have the relevant expertise in this field, such as Paul Kitching, Alex Donaldson and Fred Brown. Our own analysis of the models has shown that they are based on innaccurate data and flawed assumptions, to reach unsafe conclusions. There is no credible evidence that the extended culling policies had any impact at all on the course of the epidemic, other than to vastly increase the scale of slaughter. On the contrary, the evidence available shows that movement restrictions combined with the selective slaughter of animals on infected premises were the key factors, in line with past experience of many previous epidemics worldwide.
This brings us to the new Animal Health Bill, with proposed sweeping and draconian powers of slaughter. These include slaughter without evidence of infection, without suspicion of exposure to infection, and irrespective of protection by vaccination. Such measures have no credible scientific basis and defy the experience of the 2001 epidemic as outlined above. Established rights of appeal will be replaced by a farcical procedure in which the livestock owner will have no representation, in clear breach of the Human Rights Act. These powers will be extendable by order to other animals and diseases, with no distinctions made between commercial livestock, rare breeds, sanctuaries, zoos, wildlife or domestic pets. None of the three inquiries set up by the government to examine the 2001 epidemic have yet reported their findings.
We submit that:
- Existing legislation already provides sufficient powers
- There is no published evidence to support the need for additional powers
- The new Bill will grant excessive and unreasonable powers to the minister
without accountability or justification
- There will be no effective appeal against any decision
- New offences will be created to criminalise the right of legitimate
- Such powers are contrary to natural justice and to Human Rights and we respectfully ask that you vote against this legislation in the House of Lords.
Alan & Rosie Beat
The Bridge Mill, Bridgerule, Holsworthy, Devon EX22 7EL; Tel: 01288 381 341.