(1). Relating to article "Some thoughts on Judgement Day in Northumberland, 30th May 2002, and contributing factors."
* It was on a Saturday during early Summer 1968 when, aged fourteen, I participated in a twenty-five mile "Challenge Trek" organised by the local Rotary Association. At the time, my mother was staying with a friend in Dorset, leaving my father and two sisters at home with me, the elder, Frances, being in charge of catering.
I completed the trek and, upon returning home, consumed an enormous amount of what appeared to be corned-beef hash. It was delicious! And especially prepared for my homecoming by Frances. However, the meal's ingredients were revealed to me some weeks later. There were other not so dainty dishes set before me during the swinging, scrumptious sixties. Expertly concocted by my elder sister.
Whenever I see tins of "Kit-e-Kat" and "Pedigree Chum," memories are revived...
(a) Is it true that FMD warning and access prohibition notices were being printed in Germany and/or other European countries two months prior to February 2001?
(b) It has been alleged that some cattle, supposedly destroyed under BSE eradication regulations during 2000, were suspected of having been in contact with sheep incubating the FMD Pan Asiatic Type O virus. Two years ago, a leading South-West newspaper mentioned the possibility of exhuming bovine remains in order to test this hypothesis. What has been DEFRA's response?
(c) It was reported that MAFF over-estimated the sheep census for 1999/2000 by approximately one million. Thus, the very cheap quota for 2000/2001 may have encouraged some farmers to "play the system" without having the actual livestock to show for it. Consequently, when Ministry officials started their inspections during early February 2001, sheep were moved from farm to farm, region to region in order to stave off prosecution for fraud.
This would not only contribute towards the rapid dispersal of FMD but also place blame on those few farmers whose irresponsible efforts to conceal their dishonesty compounded the epidemic.
However, to miscalculate the sheep population by as much as a one million surplus does seem to have been extraordinarily incompetent. I would have thought that the resulting deflation in quota should have alerted MAFF to the error. Presumably, it is their responsibility to monitor and regulate subsidies.
(d) There have been stories concerning itinerant farm labourers from either Australia, New Zealand or Canada who, having worked temporarily at an unspecified location - believed to be in either Northern England or Southern Scotland - were obliged to sign the Official Secrets Act.
Whilst this is not uncommon practice at HM Government establishments, I am surprised that anyone other than positively-vetted staff would be allowed access to a MAFF site conducting livestock diseases research. It has been alleged that these workers were employed on such a premises.
Over two years ago, I was told that some people living in the Scottish Borders had flown out to either New Zealand or Canada - I cannot remember which country - to stay with relatives over Christmas and Hogmanay 2000/2001. Whilst there, they were told that FMD had already broken out in Britain and yet no confirmation had been announced by the Government.
The Chief Veterinary Officer's Report on the Origin of the UK Foot and Mouth Disease in 2001 (DEFRA, 2002) stated that his Canadian counterpart had refuted claims of Canada knowing about the existence of FMD in Britain before February 2001.
(e) I was struck by the following extract from Hansard, dated 6th November2000: Written Answers.
"To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what procedures exist in his Department for a civil servant to report actions which (1) are illegal, improper or unethical, (2) are in breach of constitutional convention or a professional code, (3) may involve possible maladministration and (4) are inconsistent with the civil service code."
Parliamentary Secretary, MAFF:-
"The procedures for reporting such concerns are the same for each issue. Where they cannot be resolved through line management, staff may report issues in confidence through someone outside the normal chain of command. For core-MAFF, this is the Director of Establishments; for agency staff, the appropriate Chief Executive. If, after investigation, a member of staff is not satisfied with a given response, a right of appeal exists to the Permanent Secretary and, beyond that, to the Civil Service Commissioners."
Did Mr. M.T's question arise from the long-awaited BSE Enquiry Report, in which former government ministers and civil servants were critised? If not, why did he seek information on reporting irregularities and malpractice within MAFF, expressed in Written Question/Answer form?
(3). Relating to "Matters arising from an article published by The Sunday Express on 8th April 2001, and other sources."
Since writing the above, I have read copies of the following: ...
(a) Classical Swine Fever (CSV) facts. (www. pighealth. com/diseases/csfdiagnosis. htm Copyright 2002-3 - Pig Disease Information Centre Ltd).
(b) Classical Swine Fever: History of a series of United Kingdom outbreaks in 2000. <www. pighealth.com/csf.htm> Copyright Pig Disease Information Centre Ltd, 2000-4). .. and wish to correct any impression given that CSF might not have been responsible for the 2000 epidemic, which resulted in nearly 66,000 pigs being slaughtered. Cumbria, although outwith Infected and Controlled areas, did have a small number of suspect herds. Given the fever's infectivity AND a concurrent PDNS epidemic (*), it was not surprising that extra veterinary staff were employed, not least, to test suspect herds.
However, an influx of around thirty extra staff to MAFF's Carlisle premises (as alleged) during late December 2000 and/or early January 2001, to "deal with a potential outbreak of Swine Fever" when the crisis was over (excepting a few farm restrictions), does seem extravagant. To be fair, they may have been required to cover Northumberland as well as Cumbria. As events transpired...
* Porcine Dermatitis and Nephropathy Syndrome (PDNS) closely resembles Classic Swine Fever and, initially, can be confused with the latter.
My alter ego's FMD articles for www. phundria. org were provocative and satirical. Following Thursday 25th October 2001, when I had good reason to be concerned about my welfare, they were designed, in part to convey the impression that "Mark Brook" was just another crackpot conspiracy theorist. To date, this strategy has been successful.
However, I acknowledge that my approach was flawed. Recently, I have had the misfortune of seeing some FMD Internet sites and am forced to conclude that "rubbish" is too generous a description! I would be very ashamed if my efforts brought discredit to those of more sensible dispositions who wish to see a proper scrutiny of FMD 2001's origins. It is hoped that these more sober articles, under my own name, will redress any misgivings.
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