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Extracted from the NFU North East journal, March 2002, p. 4.
STOKER FRATER, Northumberland NFU County Chairman writes:

We all know that the Government's promise to tighten up on import controls is a non-event so far, and that a further outbreak of animal or human disease is inevitable.

On the subject of diseases, I was kindly asked by the BBC Look North team to accompany them on a visit to Holland to look at the possibility and feasibility of implementing a vaccination policy Europe-wide.

I took with me the NFU line on a slaughter policy and was accompanied by Jane Barker, a very nice lady and farmer from Cumbria who had half her stock culled and was all for vaccination.

We learnt from a Dutch virologist that their vaccine had enough strength to cope with many different strains of F and M. Livestock could be vaccinated, which would kill the virus within 36 hours, and stop infection spreading. These animals could be monitored, and eventually be allowed to go into the food chain.

Indeed he told us that much of the meat already eaten was vaccinated, in counties like Argentina, and Uruguay. No extra marking of food as vaccinated would be necessary, as he also pointed out that all animals, and humans were vaccinated in some form or other in their lives, and it had not been a problem.

We then drove out into the Dutch countryside to meet a farmer and his wife whose stock had been vaccinated as contacts and then unexpectedly slaughtered by the Government to regain the disease-free status for export.

They were very annoyed that after 14 days of isolation and no clinical signs of F and M, their milk was allowed to go for processing, and then they were informed of the cull.

In their view, this was the worst experience of the whole F and M episode. Cattle that were perfectly healthy, that they had reared themselves, and knew individually were slaughtered for purely political reasons.

The farmer Tony and his wife Tonika could have not been more friendly. One of the interesting things was the fact that on 40 hectares [99 acres] with 80 cows and a small campsite, they were in their own words "well off and content with their lives".

We also met our Dutch counterpart on the NEC and a vet who spelt out their proposal to contain and eradicate any future outbreak with the use of vaccination.

We returned to the airport a lot wiser. Jane, I think was happier that her original thoughts were confirmed, and I was persuaded to change my views.

I think that we all do not listen enough, and do not talk to other unions in the EU. Our masters in London should take note.

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