THE JOURNAL, (Newcastle),
26 April 2001, p. 8,
by Willy Poole.
WHAT'S next with foot-and-mouth disease? That will all depend on your version of what has gone before.
By now we all know the official (Government/Maff) version. Maff believes that the disease can by contained by vigorous culling.
This might indeed be so, if Maff was correct about when and where the disease actually started. If they are wrong then all this slaughter, burning and misery is just like spitting in the wind.
Let us just suppose that foot-and-mouth disease started long before the official date. Let us suppose that Maff suspected the presence of the virus as long ago as last summer but then became entangled in floods and rail disasters? Might they not have taken their collective eye off the foot-and-mouth disease ball? We are discussing possibilities here. You must make up your own minds about probabilities.
Here is another possibility for you. Foot-and-mouth disease does not rip through sheep as it does through cattle and pigs.
As I understand it, sheep seldom suffer acutely from the virus; it spreads slowly through a flock and may affect only a few sheep in a flock.
These sheep are infective for only a short time and may show few if any outward signs. The signs that do occur may easily be confused with more mundane ovine problems - "scald" for instance.
The incidence of the disease in a flock of sheep has been compared to a "ripple". It ripples through the flock so that, by the time it comes out the other side, those originally infected may well have recovered.
This ripple may take weeks or months depending on the size of the flock and may not have been noticed even by the most attentive shepherds - few shepherds working today will have ever seen a case of foot-and-mouth disease.
If this is the case then the bulk of the national flock may well have been infected long since and the time when slaughtering and burning/burying would have been effective has long passed.
The ball that no one may have kept an eye on is now in the net.
This theory would explain the "jumps" to Jedburgh and to Whitby.
I understand that the virus cannot be "carried on the wind" - it needs a host. Burning only destroys the virus when the fire has reached a very high temperature. In the early stages, flakes of skin and hair may ascend with the smoke and can then be taken by the wind - the sooty virus then goes along for the ride.
If fell sheep in the Lakelands become widely infected and are slaughtered, what then? Burial in the rocky hills would be fair nigh impossible and would certainly infect the watercourses.
That water supplies many of the conurbations in the North-West. Burning would only mean more downwind spread of the virus.
So, where are we at? Where we are at is turn-out time for housed cattle. This would almost certainly be followed by the next wave of the epidemic, which will make what we have seen so far seem like a children's tea party.
If this is the case then the slaughter policy will have failed. What next? Vaccination? Almost certainly too little, too late.
What then? It seems to leave what I have been saying in a very small voice - "let it run its course" - slaughter any suffering animals, but the rest will get through it and come out the other side. A complete load of rubbish? That is the destiny of all our livestock under present policies.